McCain Hires Bushie for Faltering Presidential Campaign
by Jonathan Singer, Sat Mar 18, 2006 at 06:20:53 AM EST
Down at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference last weekend, The Hotline ran a straw poll measuring support for the presidential ambitions of leading Republicans. Historically, the SRLC straw poll has been seen as an effective way to gauge the race for the GOP nomination, with George W. Bush win in 1998 presaging his eventual success in the 2000 Republican primaries, for instance.
Sensing imminent defeat in the SRLC polling, Senator John McCain, a favorite of the national media, decided to "swing his weight" behind the President, telling conference attendees to write in George W. Bush in the straw poll as an indication of unwavering support for the White House. The trouble for McCain is that we saw through this not-so-subtle ruse and noticed that even if all write-ins for President Bush were counted as votes for McCain -- and even that's a stretch -- McCain's anemic 4.6 percent support would still be unimpressive at 15.9 percent, nowhere near a level of support that would warrant such glowing coverage from the national media.
The fact of the matter is that as of today, John McCain does not have a path to the 2008 GOP nomination -- and he know's it. It's no surprise, then, that McCain is so clearly and unabashedly embracing President Bush in an effort to endear himself to the Republican base. This effort is not limited to stale rhetoric at a conference of Republican insiders or stumping on Bush's behalf during the 2004 election. Today, the AP's Ron Fournier reports that McCain has hired a top Bush strategist and continues to woo another in an effort to breath some life into his faltering presidential campaign.
With an eye toward the 2008 presidential campaign, GOP Sen. John McCain of Arizona has hired one of President Bush's top re-election advisers to help run his political action committee.
Terry Nelson, political director of the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2004, will be senior adviser to Straight Talk America, according to several official familiar with the hiring. They spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to pre-empt an announcement by McCain's committee.
McCain is courting Bush's supporters, major fundraisers and advisers. Mark McKinnon, the president's chief media strategist, has signaled his willingness to help McCain unless Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice or Florida Gov. Jeb Bush gets in the race.
Both Rice and the president's brother have said they will not run.
Fournier hypothesizes that McCain's hiring of Nelson "may help McCain cast himself as the early front-runner and potential heir of Bush's political machine." Front-runner? I'm not sure that someone who could garner less than 5 percent support among key GOP activists could be labeled a front-runner, even in the inside-the-Beltway lalaland in which Fournier resides.
Political reporters and analysts need to wake up and realize two facts:
- John McCain is not the leading contender for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination; and,
- John McCain is not a rebel or a maverick who is interested in cleaning up Washington but instead a party hack willing to sell out what little principle he once had for a shot at the Republican nomination -- and a small shot, at that.
Once the media gets beyond the storyline that a Hillary/McCain matchup is inevitable, voters can begin taking a good look at who they actually would like to see in the White House. It's not Fournier's job to crown the next GOP nominee, or even grant a candidate "front-runner" status, nor is it Dick Morris' place to annoint Senator Clinton the shoo-in for the Democratic nomination. No, it's primary voters across the country who have a voice in the process, and, to a lesser extent, activists voting in straw polls like the one at the SRLC (or the one on MyDD, for that matter). And when voters have the actually have the opportunity to make a choice, the cocktail dinner types living in Georgetown might be surprised to find out just how out of touch they themselves actually are.