Campaigning Against John McCain, Not George Bush

Republican on line political strategist Patrick Ruffini is offering some advice that Democrats should listen to. I’ve been shuddering for a while over the strategy of trying to campaign against John McCain by claiming that he is identical to George Bush. Whether by good sense or possibly due to old fashioned dumb luck, the Republicans have wound up with the candidate who has the best shot of winning due to not being linked to Bush’s legacy.

Ruffini is not disputing McCain’s electoral weakness on the war. He does advise:

Limit Bush=McCain criticisms to Iraq only, where there is already an established public narrative of McCain being very hawkish, and in fact, leading Bush into the surge. And isn’t Iraq the core of their indictment? Why muddy it up with domestic stuff where Bush and McCain are often night and day?

Supporting the Iraq war was one of the biggest mistakes of modern times and Democrats can capitalize on this thanks to being on path to nominating Barack Obama and repudiating Hillary Clinton. Beyond Iraq there are obviously other similarities between Bush and McCain as there are some common beliefs of all Republicans. The difference is often one of degree, with McCain not being the far right extremist that Bush is. Democrats must keep in mind that before going to war in Iraq and before moving to the extreme right, the views commonly held by Republicans, right or wrong, were the views which got far more Republicans than Democrats elected.

McCain is not the independent moderate sometimes portrayed by the media, but he is also not the far right extremist that currently dominates the Republican Party. McCain breaks from the far right on torture, although he has certainly not been consistent in his voting. McCain at least does not deny that climate change is a problem and is preferable over the far right on environmental issues, but he is not the environmental champion sometimes described by the media. He panders far too much to the religious right, especially on abortion, but has far weaker ties to the religious right than George Bush (or Hillary Clinton).

Democrats need to go after McCain from both directions. Describing him as McSame is not enough. They need to hammer at the specific problems with his own views. Acknowledging that his views are not as extreme as Bush’s could also be of some benefit beyond being what we should expect from the “reality based” community. This this could help depress turnout by those on the far right who already have qualms about him. Ruffini recommends:

Drive wedges between McCain and his base by playing up McCain’s ongoing feuds with Bush and the conservative movement, demoralizing conservatives and keeping base turnout closer to 1996-2000 levels as opposed to red-hot 2004 levels. Focus on insider issues like the 2000 vote that won’t get much play outside the respective party echo chambers, limiting any fallout among true independents, who are a dwindling percentage of the electorate anyway. Remember that it’s easier to get 4 million conservatives not to show up than it is to get 2 million independents to switch.

John McCain is certain to play up his differences from Bush in a positive light to attract moderates and independents, who I believe are more significant than Ruffini states. I’m not so sure that he is really upset over the stories that he did not vote for Bush in 2000 or that in 1999 he said that Bush is “as dumb as a stump.”

Be Sociable, Share!

No Comments

4 Trackbacks

Leave a comment