Thursday, March 08, 2007


McCain's War Blues

A new Wall St. Journal/NBC News poll underscores the problem John McCain is having with the Republican base (sub. required for full story) -- and that base's restlessness with Iraq:
The poll shows Mr. McCain's problems are partly personal, and partly the result of the Iraq war's shadow over the broader political environment. After years in which his maverick stance on issues from taxes to campaign finance grated on the party faithful, one in five Republicans express negative views of Mr. McCain and a similar proportion vow not to vote for him. That is double the negative views about Mr. Giuliani.

Some 30% of Americans overall, and 22% of Republicans express reservations about the fact that Mr. McCain, now 70 years old, would be the oldest president elected to a first term. More ominously, 72% of Americans and 50% of Republicans express discomfort with his support for sending more U.S. troops to Iraq.
But, McCain isn't just "supporting" sending more troops to Iraq: He has been front-and-center on the more-troops issue from the beginning. Indeed, his ongoing battle with Donald Rumsfeld was over the troops issue. But, what was the right idea -- policy-wise and politically -- on Day One, may not be the right one politically now. Sadly for McCain, the public isn't buying it. He's in the worst of all possible worlds: He criticized the Bush administration for going into Iraq without enough troops, but now that the administration is sending more troops in, McCain is suffering the political cost of a war that the public has given up on.

Another irony: even though McCain and Cheney hate each other -- as demonstrated by the Veep's defending Rumsfeld two weeks ago -- McCain is the one whom GOP voters may punish as Bush's VP-stand-in during the primaries.

Meanwhile, though Giuliani supports the "surge" idea, it's not "his" plan. He hasn't been out front commenting on it and offering strategic guidance from the Senate from the start; thus, as noted here last week, he hasn't had to suffer the collapse of GOP support for the war to the degree McCain is. He is free to offer a new perspective:
Mr. Giuliani's camp is counting on his strong security profile as "America's Mayor" after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks -- and that a restless public will seek change from outside Washington. The latest encouraging sign for that view: the criminal conviction this week of former vice presidential aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby in the CIA leak case.

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