I think any reports on the demise of a John McCain nomination are greatly exaggerated. In fact, I think he will be the cornerstone of a strategy to hold together the a GOP ship, at least for the time being. As much as I wish I could write this off as cynicism and snark, but I’m thinking there’s the perfect storm brewing for such a scenario, morbid as some of the aspects may sound.
First of all, I’ll preface this with the following notion. As much as people like to think that the choice for VP nominee is of stellar importance in a presidential race, such a concept has, time and time again, been shown to be untrue. For example, as much as the Dems would like to believe that a “southern state” candidate will help them pick off electoral votes in the south, it hasn’t, and won’t.
That said, I think there will be a strategy for the GOP’s nomination, but not for all the traditional reasons. No, I don’t think they’ll name someone who they think will strategically help them win. Rather, I think they’ll name someone who doesn’t have a lot of exposure — and won’t, even as a veep nod, specifically because people don’t pay attention to him/her?
Confusing? Probably, on its face it sounds at very least fairly contrarian, but there’s a method to the madness.
As much as those on the left realise just how loopy McCain has gotten in the past two years or so — and I don’t mean partisan so much as just plain spacy — fact is that most of the low-information American voters still see him as this moderate ‘maverick’ who can “work both sides”.
Now, consider the following, noting that many of these ideas may be already well-known to some readers:
- The GOP is in total disarray right now.
- This schism is so great that you’ll currently find no candidate who both satisfies the conservatives and is palatable to the rest of the party*.
- As such the conservatives are coming dangerously close to being marginalised within the party.
- John McCain will be 71 in August, already older than Reagan was when he was elected, and we’ve still got two years to go. Furthermore, he’s been treated for skin cancer three different times.
What does this suggest to me? Simply put, I’m thinking the conservatives will hedge their bets. They’ll hold their noses and vote for McCain… but they will ask for something in return. Specifically, they’ll want one of their cronies, such as Brownback or Huckabee named as the veep nod, should McCain, well… cash in. At very least, it gives them a foothold in 2012, should McCain, who I don’t think would run for reelection, pull off a win.
While I admit that such a frank discussion about mortality can be pretty unsettling, I think the desparation on both sides is unenviable. Given the current circumstances, I imagine the GOP would make this “deal with the devil” — in this case, a devil with the face of an angel. In fact, it’s a notion not far removed from when the GOP found themselves courting the evangelicals in the 1980s in the first place — facing increasing irrelevancy and decreasing constituency, worked with Viguerie and Weyrich to forge the Moral Majority pact. The only real difference this time is that the GOP is that much more desperate — and the conservatives, after having a taste of power for the past 30 years, don’t want to lose it. Both segments have something to gain. That we saw McCain speak at Liberty University’s 2006 commencement and thus apparently made amends with Falwell is notable; the real point to watch will be Dobson, who has thus far adamantly refused to support McCain.
This past Sunday was Pentecost Sunday in the Christian church. I daresay that should a “mighty wind” occur and Dobson changes his tune, that we’ll know the above deal has been struck. Far from being an important role in the public eye during an election, the veep nominee might very well turn out to be something of a shadow candidate for the conservative base of the GOP.
* I would posit that Fred Thompson may satisfy the “conservatives + GOP” equation. If you ask me, he would probably be their best bet.