Did John McCain Appear on SNL Because He Accepts Defeat?

Having posted again on Saturday Night Live in the previous post brings back the question in my mind when John McCain decided to appear on the show, while Obama decided to spend the time campaigning. Both candidates had an open invitation to appear according to head writer Seth Meyers, but only McCain took them up on the offer.

McCain gave up a chance to campaign in swing states and appeared in sketches which made fun of him (videos and descriptions here). James Fallows sees this as acceptance that he has lost the race:

For a candidate coming from behind, every second of the final week of the campaign is like a second in cardiac-surgery operating theater, with absolutely no room for fooling around or wasting time, money, or effort that could be used to sway that last crucial vote. (Think: the last days of Gore-Bush in 2000.)

For a candidate who thinks he’s ahead, and might actually become president, inevitably there’s a tone of new seriousness right at the end: What we’ve been working for years is within our grasp, let’s not screw this up, and let’s be sobered by how different the world is going to look in a few days.

So if McCain really thought he had a chance of catching up, he wouldn’t have wasted time on an audience that might repair his reputation among liberals and journalists but does him no good with the crucial swing votes.   And if he thought he were secretly ahead, he wouldn’t comport himself this way. He would be more like the stiff character we saw in the debates.

As neither of us can read John McCain’s mind, this is all quite speculative. (I can say with one hundred percent certainty that Fallows cannot read his mind as anyone with the ability to read minds would have written the definitive answer as to what was going on in his head when he picked Sarah Palin). I think Fallows is partially correct. John McCain must realize that he is behind and at this point cannot afford the luxury of considering how this would appear should be actually become president. Instead of giving up, I see this as McCain trying to do anything possible to get back into the race.

My guess is that, like the choice  of Sarah Palin, this was a gamble McCain thought was worth taking. McCain probably figured that an appearance on Saturday Night Live would give him a national audience instead of a local audience at a campaign event. Appearing on SNL would also lead to media coverage which might make up for the fact that the audience of SNL is not a good demographic for McCain. Besides, McCain is already having difficulties with attendance at some of his rallies (such as in Tampa), and there is no guarantee an additional event on Saturday night would have brought in many people. Maybe he was even a little jealous of the publicity Sarah Palin received for her appearance on SNL.

Certainly McCain might have preferred to be in skits which portrayed him better, but my bet is that he thought it was worth the gamble. The favorable publicity of showing a sense of humor out weighted any negative effects of the topics of the skits.

I don’t buy the fact that McCain has given up because he does not appear like a candidate who has given up. I watched one of his stump speeches at a rally today. It contained all the same nonsense as before but showed no decrease in intensity. In a campaign which probably started earlier than any previous campaign season, John McCain has even decided to stretch it on longer. He will be campaigning in Colorado and New Mexico on election day, when most candidates usually have finished.

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