Monday, February 19, 2007

McCain in Position

John McCain this week affirmed his hawkish position on Iraq (he promises to continue prosecuting the war if elected), and made a big show of his view that Roe v. Wade should be overturned and abortioned outlawed. With the electorate trending to the left and the Democrats smelling blood this looks at first glance like movement in the wrong direction, but McCain knows exactly what he's doing. Now is the time to run for one's party nomination. The general election continues (sigh) to be some ways off. McCain sees that the vogue for "moderate Republicans" is a reflection of the national mood, not the Republican mood. As I mentioned in a previous blog, a pro-choice candidate isn't going to make it through the Republican primaries. I don't think a pro-choice running mate would cut it either. As for the war, the surest way to lock up the conservative base is to champion the policy that they, and only they, continue to support. This brings me to the last point: the smart politician knows that first you have to survive, then you can actually be there for the final battle. It may be that the electorate is going to give the Democrats a turn at bat; unlike the politicians themselves, the American electorate approaches national elections as savvy consumers, mixing and matching and letting the pendulum swing. But there is always a chance that the front-runner will fall. There is a large element of caprice in the process, as McCain knows well. The Republican candidate has, at least, a chance. So McCain's project is to be the Republican candidate, in the literal sense of the term. Thus you constitute a real choice available for a voter to make. I think the odds are against him in the general election, but I think he knows that too. Better to be standing there with your odds, such as they are, than to not be there at the finish at all.

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