Why are people scared of McCain?

I wrote a draft of this post yesterday, before the NYT story broke, only to have it lost.  But I wanted to engage with the MyDD community on this question regardless.  Why are so many people scared of McCain?  He seems to me to be an astonishingly weak candidate, for the following reasons.  Some of these are predicated on a McCain versus Obama race, but all but two I think apply equally if Clinton manages to turn things around.  

1.  Experience is not a plus when running for President: Don't believe me?  Look at recent history.  Al Gore and John Kerry both had more experience in government than George W Bush.  Bill Clinton beat handily George Bush Sr. and Bob Dole.  Dukakis was arguably less experienced than George Bush Sr., but he was the longest-serving governor in Massachusetts history.  There's just no indication that people look for the candidate with the longest resume.  

2.  Being a war hero is not a plus when running for President: Two words - John Kerry.  For that matter, Bob Dole was a war hero (he received two Purple Hearts and a Bronze star), as well as George Bush Sr. (He received the Distinguished Flying Cross due to his admittedly brave actions over Chimi Jima)

3.  The media glow is just starting to come off: A lot of people on here rightfully claim that Obama's head to head numbers can come down, but they don't realize the same thing is quite likely to be true about McCain.  McCain right now is in a position very similar to Rudy Giuliani six months ago - people generally like him (and he does fairly well in head to head matchups), but they don't know much of anything about him besides his maverick reputation.  One difference though is while people who didn't know Rudy assumed he was more conservative than he is, people who aren't paying attention assume McCain is more moderate than he is.  A disturbing amount of people have no idea that McCain is pro-life and a die-hard supporter of the Iraq war.  His positions will undoubtedly come under increased scrutiny as we get into the fall.  

4.  McCain is repeating the same themes that didn't work for Hillary: You know, the whole "speeches don't solve problems thing." Given Obama does best with crossover independents and Republicans, my bet is swing voters are going to be even less amenable to this argument than those who have voted in the Democratic primaries and caucuses are.  

5.  The economy: McCain has nothing to say on the economy really.  He's made it clear he isn't particularly interested in economic issues, and when he does discuss them, he just spouts right-wing talking points about cutting taxes on businesses (which we've already done a ton of for the past seven years), and cutting back on social spending.  Given the U.S. is likely to be in full-fledged recession by the fall, this will be some thin gruel for swing voters.  

6.  The war: When two-thirds of Americans disapprove of Bush's handling of the Iraq war, half want a withdrawal within a year or less, and independents and Democrats hold essentially the same views on Iraq, it's impossible to see any advantage for McCain here.  The only reason why he's still somewhat credible with swing voters is a large number of them don't realize that he's for keeping U.S. troops in Iraq another hundred years.  This will change.  

7.  The eight-year itch: Generally speaking, one party doesn't hold the white house longer than eight consecutive years.  George Bush Sr. was an exception of course, but the rule is by this time fatigue sets in on whichever party controls the executive branch.  And lo and behold, Democrats do have a large generic lead now, and the attitudes of Americans on taxes, social spending, and foreign policy are becoming closer and closer to Democratic policy

8.  McCain is less likable than Obama: The candidate viewed as more likable always wins the presidential elections.  Obama can come across as cool at times, but he's a confident man with an important slice of self-deprecating humor at times.  McCain is an ugly old man who is well known for having a temper.  I think it's possible that McCain might be anointed as "likable" by some in the press, but I think that it will go over as well as Grandpa Fred once people get to know him.  

9.  McCain's campaign is far worse than Clinton or Obama: I don't think Clinton's campaign has been startlingly awful, just startlingly awful post super Tuesday.  However, it's important to remember McCain mostly won the primaries as a default candidate - everyone else running had major flaws and imploded in various ways, until he was the last man standing.  While his campaign probably did play a strong role in winning New Hampshire, it hasn't done much of anything else, and couldn't get out of the mire until Huckabee started to slay Romney.  He was also broke as of New Years.  I see nothing within his campaign which makes me think it's anywhere near the caliber of either Clinton's campaign or Obama's campaign.  

10.  The divided right: In recent history, there have been three losing Republican candidates: Ford in `76, George Bush Sr. in `92, and Bob Dole in '96.  In all cases, the right-wing base failed to embrace the Republican candidate - they didn't really see him as "one of their own" and there wasn't much enthusiasm to turning up and voting for any of them.  Of course, Bush won in 1988 despite the right-wing having huge misgivings about him, so there's a possibility that McCain could survive as a viable candidate even if the right never truly embraces him.  Still, the fact that Limbaugh and company have not closed ranks yet - and Huckabee continues to do fairly well in primaries, despite not being viable, speaks ominously about McCain's chances of healing his party.

Given all this, I'd say Obama, if he secures the nomination, has around a 70% chance of winning against McCain.  I actually think the general election will be far easier for him than the primaries have been.  Of course, this is all just my opinion, and I'd love to hear the opinions of you guys.

Tags: 2007, Barack Obama, John McCain (all tags)



Re: He's a media darling.

And there hasn't been a Democrat with as much crossover appeal as Obama in decades. The crossover argument has been neutralized.

by Cheebs 2008-02-21 06:00AM | 0 recs
As I said in point three...

People like McCain because they don't know him.  Guliani had great crossover appeal too, but once people started paying attention to him, they realized he was an...asshole essentially, and his national numbers plummeted.  Even providing the media coverage of him continues to be glowing (which the NYT bit suggests it won't), people will see him in the debates and realize he's unlikable and they disagree with him on the issues.

by telephasic 2008-02-21 06:02AM | 0 recs

philosophically seems quite simple.  He's clearly a conservative, but he doesn't see himself as part of "the conservative movement."  He agrees with 90% of what they believe ideologically, but he'd be more than willing to sell them all down the river if he thought it would improve his standing.  His egotism is just too strong for him to be truly committed to authoritarianism (unless he happened to be the one in charge).  

by telephasic 2008-02-21 06:13AM | 0 recs
Re: As I said in point three...

Well, you could say the same thing about Obama: People like him because they don't know him.

by Ga6thDem 2008-02-21 08:00AM | 0 recs
Obama's negatives will...

undoubtedly rise.  Negatives always rise when people get to know candidates better.  

However, Obama is a more likable person, and his left-of-center positions are closer to those of swing voters than the far-right positions of McCain.  

So, I think McCain's negatives will rise more.  Or, at best it will be a wash, and the head-to-head race will be pretty similar to today.  

by telephasic 2008-02-21 08:36AM | 0 recs
Re: I give him ONE point of credit

Have been knocked over by how many gay people like him, totally unbelievable. They tell me that he is personally quite open to gays. And has stood against a federal marriage amendment. He also has stayed out of gay bashing. And away from exgays, unlike a certain other candidate. Apparently gays and lesbians have a segment that can quite comfortably vote for McCain based on his personal record with us. Weird, huh?

by DaleA 2008-02-21 09:05AM | 0 recs
Re: Why are people scared of McCain?

All good points.

Reagan was a relatively popular President, being associated with with him probably helped Bush snr. Bush jnr is poison for McCain.

On campaign finance, Obama made a committment. Isn't it exactly the type of thing he keeps complaining about?

by liberalj 2008-02-21 06:31AM | 0 recs
Re: You should be more informed

Face facts if this was the other way around, you'd be slamming McCain for breaking his promise.

Barack Obama:

"If I am the Democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election."

Now if he wants to play around with words and suggest that wasn't a promise, then he can try that but it doesn't fit with his new way of doing things.

I don't think being blinded by partisanship helps, there's a difference between loyal support and closing your eyes to anything that doesn't suit.

by liberalj 2008-02-21 07:04AM | 0 recs
Re: Please, work on reading comprehension

Hillary's a lawyer, Mitt Romney went to Harvard law, Edwards is a lawyer.... So what?

Obama made a promise that seeemd principled at the time, now it looks dumb. But thats the thing when you make promises, you don't know the future.

What you are saying is that Obama shouldn't stick by any promises he makes if they become politically inconvenient.

Aggressively pursue an agreement means that Obama will try hard to agree to public financing, well McCain has offered that. You cannot 'aggressively pursue' an agreement by refusing an offer that is exactly what you said you wanted. Get real.

I agree with all the points about McCain, McCain's doing this to get himself out of a hole. But thats McCain, Obama's promise isn't excused by McCain's self interest.

by liberalj 2008-02-21 07:13AM | 0 recs
Re: You are buying a house

McCain isn't making an unreasonable demand, he's saying he'll accept public financing if Obama does. His motives for doing so, are purely political. Just as Obama's motives for refusing are purely political.

But none of that changes the inconvenient truth for you, which is that most people would see what Obama said and think he agreed to public financing if his opponent did likewise.

by liberalj 2008-02-21 07:55AM | 0 recs
Re: You are buying a house

Obama's USA Today piece on this is actaully good, he'll sign on as long as 527s are controlled, and since this can't be done then he doesn't ahve to sign on.

by Socraticsilence 2008-02-21 09:58AM | 0 recs
Re: You are buying a house

If Obama finds a way out of this without looking like he's lied then great.

Lets see how the Republicans do when they're at a huge spending disadvantage. If Obama can raise $30-50m a month from now until the general he'll be able to compete across the country, he could bury McCain.

by liberalj 2008-02-21 10:17AM | 0 recs
It is a promise ONLY IF McCain

agrees to conditions.

Such as closing 527 loopholes.

If McCain co-sponsors a McCain-Feingold II between now and November THEN Obama should agree to accept public financing.

But that is an "if" and there is no way McCain will ever do that which means Obama can toy with McCain like a cat toys with a mouse.

by Bill White 2008-02-21 07:26AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama should address the issue

I believe what you propose for Obama to say is exactly what Obama IS saying, right now.

by Bill White 2008-02-21 07:50AM | 0 recs
Re: You should be more informed

If Barack accepts public financing I'm going to ask him to give my vote back. Will the Republican 527's  which is where all the real sleaze will be coming from agree to hold their fire? He'd get shredded by the swiftboaters and not have the funds to return fire.

With Barack, Democrats can count on a tsunami of small donors funding the biggest war chest in US history. Any one who would be stupid or naive enough to surrender that advantage does not deserve to be our nominee. Based on what I heard Obama say on some radio talk show, no way he gives up the advantage. He made the case that he never gave an unqualified commitment, that was wishful thinking on McCain's part. But whether that's the plain truth or just spin I don't give a crap. He'd better be prepared for the worse and fully armed and ready for bear come November.

I don't want him counting on a bunch of 527's that he can not communicate coordinate with or control. I want this campaign to have total control of all the resources needed to win.

by hankg 2008-02-21 08:45AM | 0 recs
Re: You should be more informed

I think Obama shouldn't of made the promise, but now he has he's in a difficult position.

Ultimately i think he should opt out and keep the advantage. But lets not pretend he won't be breaking a committment.

This is the sort of thing Hillary would of got a lot of flak for. I just hope Obama supporters become a little bit less holier than thou.

by liberalj 2008-02-21 08:56AM | 0 recs
Re: You should be more informed

I don't think he is in a difficult position at all. He has a million donors so far and he has no obligation to fall on his sword and hand the election to the Republicans. His statement on the radio sounded plausible but even if he broke a pledge which I'm not certain he did, so what.

His obligation is to the voters and the country and if he made an error early on by committing to such a thing it's not to late to correct it and it won't be hard to spin it. He's not running for sainthood he is running for President.

by hankg 2008-02-21 10:42AM | 0 recs
Re: You should be more informed

"even if he broke a pledge which I'm not certain he did, so what."

Next time John McCain or any other Republican breaks a pledge, remember not to criticize.

by liberalj 2008-02-21 01:07PM | 0 recs
Re: You should be more informed

Fair enough, if John McCain breaks his pledge to stack the courts with wingnut judges who will over turn Roe v Wade and breaks his pledge to keep us in Iraq for 100 years I promise not to crticize.

by hankg 2008-02-21 03:02PM | 0 recs
Re: Why are people scared of McCain?

Who has the most to gain by dicrediting Mccain?.....think about that!!!!!

by corky2143 2008-02-21 06:32AM | 0 recs

The Democratic party, and progressives?  

by telephasic 2008-02-21 06:38AM | 0 recs
Re: Why are people scared of McCain?

Frankly your reasons for being scared of McCain are a little too obsessed with policy detail. People just like McCain, like other people just like Obama. Actually, McCain stands a good chance of becoming the anti-Obama. He's plain spoken, a little gruff, has no high falutin' messianic tendencies, just a uncomplicated all-American guy. I could see a President McCain, with a Democratic House and Senate.

You see, since we have been told its okay to have a policy-free election, where personality instead rules, and the details of policy are as boring as Hillary, we can now just focus on selecting one of these  two personalities. Coke or Pepsi, Burger King or MacDonalds? McCain or Obama?

by superetendar 2008-02-21 06:50AM | 0 recs

people "just liked" Giuliani too.  

McCain's only real shot (barring an Obamaplosion) is if the press continues to worship him, and people pay too little attention to the campaign not to notice the man he really is.  But the real McCain, at least on the issues, will come out during the debates regardless.  

by telephasic 2008-02-21 07:25AM | 0 recs
Re: Again...
In 1968, I constantly heard some news reports early in the campaign which said that Hubert Humphrey was running uphill beacause he was a "liberal" running agaisnt a "conservative" national trend.
That was just as true the weekend before the election as it was the weenkend after the Chicago converntion, which was one reason why HHH never made it to the Oval Office (and may not have been that succesful of a President if he had).
I think you people are all overlooking the natinal mood. Sometimes, there are things which trump everything we humans think is important in politics.
On the other hand, this is America and we're taling about 300 million kitchen knives, none of them the sharpest in the drawer.
by spirowasright 2008-02-21 08:28AM | 0 recs
Re: Again...

I think you people are all overlooking the national mood. Sometimes, there are things which trump everything we humans think is important in politics.

And what exactly is the national mood?  

by telephasic 2008-02-21 08:39AM | 0 recs
you win a kewpie doll

People aren't afraid of McCain (wary maybe, but not afraid), they are afraid of the right wing slime machine.  Or even more likely, they are using the right wing slime machine for fear based partisan purposes.  

But these disingenuous and/or nervous nellies underestimate the strength of our candidates, the hand that the Party is holding going into the Fall and the ability of the American public to choose the better candidate.  

by mboehm 2008-02-21 06:59AM | 0 recs
Re: Why are people scared of McCain?

Well, this Jew wouldn't vote for John McCain for dog catcher. I am a strong supporter of Hillary's, but I'm a Democrat first. I cast my first vote for president in 1968. I have never had my first choice candidate win the Democratic nomination (except Bill in 1996), but I have always supported the eventual nominee with my time and money when it came to the general election. It is beyond me how anyone could switch support from a pro-choice liberal who is committed to getting us out of Iraq to an anti-choice, "100 years in Iraq would be fine with me", nasty old man.

by Not the only Dem in KS 2008-02-21 07:13AM | 0 recs
Re: Why are people scared of McCain?

I don't get it...why do you want to support McCain?  

by telephasic 2008-02-21 07:28AM | 0 recs
the real reason

Is that a lot of the online supporters of Clinton think that other Democrats hate Obama as much as they do. Therefore they think that there is just a huge mass of people that will refuse to vote Dem if he is the candidate and will just switch over to McCain.

It's the same kind of arrogance that led Clinton to think that this race would be over on 2/5. They know better than everyone else. If you're not on the Clinton bandwagon, then it's OBVIOUSLY because you're too mentally feeble to resist Obama's siren call

by highgrade 2008-02-21 07:33AM | 0 recs
Fantastic points

I think you're right. I think the only person who defeats Obama this November is Obama. I also think if somehow Hillary gets the nomination she'd defeat McCain, but I think Obama is going to win in McCain in an electoral landslide (I say 5%, but i think swing states will swing his way).

by falcon4e 2008-02-21 08:09AM | 0 recs
Re: He's a media darling.

I assume you exclude Reagan right?

by Socraticsilence 2008-02-21 09:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Why are people scared of McCain?

The Republicans have poisoned the well with Latinos.  Reliable Democratic voters will continue to be reliable Democratic voters with only small exceptions. McCain has anchored the straight talk express with a mountain of garbage and practically crawled up GW's butt in order to get the support of the lunatic fringe which will hurt him with independents. The flip flops, another 4 years of Bush, a 100 years in Iraq and war with Iran, his dismal admission he's not up on the economy as we head into a recession. McCain is an opposition strategists dream.

In addition Obama brings some new weapons to the Democrats arsenel.

  1.  Young people and African Americans never vote in large numbers. Getting them out in force is a huge game changer.

  2. Money is a powerful weapon. It's February and Obama already has one million donors he will amass a war chest of historic proportions that will dwarf the Republicans funding.

  3. He is charismatic and inspirational as Andrew Cuomo said "Campaign in poetry, govern in prose"

  4. Don't underestimate the change factor. Americans are sick of fear, negativity and partisanship. They want to feel good about themselves, their country and their future again. Obama nailed it in his messaging. He has connected to this incredibly powerful mood. Get ready for a huge backlash against the politics and economics of the last decade.

by hankg 2008-02-21 10:53AM | 0 recs


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