Could McCain have won?
Robert A. Hall
I’m posting this before the returns start coming in, so I hope, of course, that I will have egg all over my face in a few hours.
I supported McCain, as I did in 2000, because I thought he was the only Republican with a shot this year. (He’d have crushed Gore if the Republicans had nominated him that year—and the world would be very different.) My reasons for that support are laid out in earlier posts.
But I’ve thought ever since Obama won the Democrat nomination that he was going to be president. Doesn’t mean I liked the idea. There was a moment when McCain got a bounce from the conventions, and Obama didn’t, when I had a fleeting hope. Then the economy imploded, and I knew it was over.
I still sent contributions to McCain, voted for him, and wrote short articles in support which I circulated on the web (and posted on this blog when I started it). We have to fight these things out, just for our own peace of mind. One wants to be able to say, “I did all I could.”
Consider what McCain had against him:
--Bush. Though McCain has been a bitter opponent of Bush within the party, they both have an “R” next to their name. Those who hate Bush would therefore have voted for Ted Bundy if he had a “D” beside his name. (I bet if you did a survey, because Bush the Republican is in the White House, at least 30% of the voters would say the Republicans control that damn Congress we hate, I gotta vote Democrat to change that.
--History. Only once since WWII have the voters selected the same party to hold the White House three terms in a row, when George H. W. Bush succeeded Reagan. Not a great year for a Republican to buck that trend.
--Money. Obama pledged to the public he would take public financing for his campaign. Only those who are not familiar with the Chicago political world were shocked to find out his word was worthless, once he discovered he could raise considerably more money than McCain would have from public financing. And he had three times as many donations at or above $25,000 than McCain, according to the Washington Post. So much for the fat cats being Republicans. When you can spend three times as much as your opponent, you usually win. (By the way, reformers, public financing is now dead, killed by Obama.)
--The economy. In McCain had known it would implode, he’d probably have taken Romney, for his experience in that area, over Palin for VP. But if he’d realized it would be this bad back in 2005, when he sponsored S-190 to better regulate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, he’d have gone on a national tour then, condemning the Democrats for killing increased regulation. That Democrats created and protected them, then benefited from the Fannie and Freddie meltdown is the most painful irony of the election.
--Vote buying. When you promise the 40% of the people who didn’t pay taxes that you are going to send them a “tax rebate” check of $500 or $1,000 if elected, that’s hard to beat. Sure, politicians often win over interest groups by promising more spending in their area of interest, but this was a breath-taking ploy. I think it changes elections forever. From now on, they’ll just be a bidding war.
--Vote Fraud. See my post, below, on Milwaukee shutting down the police task force on vote fraud, because they found it in 2004! There was probably enough fraud then to swing Wisconsin to Kerry. If they couldn’t buy enough votes this year, they had Obama’s old buddies at ACORN registering lots of phony voters.
Sure, there were some things I thought at the time the McCain campaign should have done differently:
I told my wife at the first debate, McCain should have led off with, “We have our differences, but I want to start by thanking and congratulating Senator Obama. When I suspended my campaign to go back to Washington to push for the economic rescue package, I know he didn’t want to stop campaigning and thought it wasn’t in his interest to do so. But he put that aside, returned to Washington, and he also worked to try to get a bill through. He deserves credit for putting the country first. I’m still hopeful that, together, Republicans and Democrats will pass a bill to stabilize the economy and restore confidence.” I thought it would have made him look presidential, and he would have boxed Obama as having followed McCain’s lead.
I thought Palin should have led off her debate with, “I want to start by asking everyone, regardless of party or position, to pray for and support all our troops, including Senator Biden’s son, who is going to Iraq as a military lawyer, and my son, who is going (or is there) as an Army infantryman.” It would have reminded folks that virtually everyone on the other side is a lawyer, right down to their military people.
Most of all, I thought McCain should have tried one more Hail Mary on the Tuesday before the election, by announcing some of his cabinet appointments. “An administration is more than the President and the Vice President. While I’m still in discussions over some potential appointments, I have selected several of the people who will serve in my administration, if I am elected. I think the voters have a right to know before they vote who these people are, and I call on Senator Obama to release the names of those he’s already promised cabinet level jobs to.” Rudy Giuliani as Attorney General, with a charge to ferret out the corruption that caused the economic collapse, and bring them to justice, regardless of party. Mitt Romney at the Treasury, with a charge to work to stabilize and rebuild the economy. Romney then immediately goes to Michigan, where he’s popular, to campaign, putting it potentially back in play. Tom Ridge at something, to help in PA. Joe Lieberman at, say, education or HUD. There could have been other helpful names, and the news would have shaken up the campaign, and brought attention to McCain. I waited in vain, as Tuesday, drifted into Thursday and it became too late.
But I don’t think this would have changed the outcome, just made it more exciting. I think this one was bought, paid for, signed and sealed last June. It will be delivered tonight.