05 August 2008

Why McCain Should Stand With Bush?

William McGurn at the Wall Street Journal has an interesting and salient take on how McCain could "find himself on defense through November": keep avoiding the president.

Allowing himself to look afraid of being in the president's company hurts him in two large ways. For one thing, it cuts against Mr. McCain's most attractive trait: his fearlessness. This is a man running as someone who stood up to his captors in Hanoi, who stood up to his own party, and who, as president, would be willing to stand up to America's enemies. For such a man to fear photo ops with the president broadcasts an insecurity that will only feed into the Obama campaign. And the press smells it.

. . . Mr. McCain's reticence will also hurt him with his own party. While the president's general approval ratings may be down in the 30s, among the GOP faithful the numbers are up in the 60s. These numbers, moreover, do not track intensity: The people who have stayed with Mr. Bush this far have been through the fire with him. They are not likely to be excited by a nominee who makes a habit of dissing fellow Republicans like Phil Gramm, whose crime was trying to support their nominee.
In other words, McCain dilutes his brand by avoiding GWB, and he also pisses off his base (they were never really his, though, were they?). The alternative? Get cozy with the least popular president (according to CNN) in American history.*

Sounds like a damned if he does situation if I ever heard one. What's a candidate to do? Well, distracting folks from this issues (on which his politics do bear a striking resemblance the those of the man he would replace) is a good start. Camp McCain wins the past week's tussle when it comes to dictating the terms of the campaign. As for all the rest? Folks like William McGurn and myself will be watching closely to see how this plays out.

*No comment as to the scientific integrity of that poll, nor any other conducted over the past 232 years.