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Third time unlucky

August 18, 2007

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McCain turned down Bush and Kerry but could (and should) he run with Giuliani?

With John McCain in fourth place in the last three national polls there is increased speculation that a Giuliani-McCain ticket might be in the works. Indeed, the speculation has been fanned by Giuliani declaring that he ‘ happen(s) to be a very big admirer of Sen. McCain and I can tell you quite honestly that if I weren’t running for president I would be here supporting him’. McCain even said that he was ‘very flattered’ by Giuliani’s comments. Like the idea of a Bush-McCain ticket in 2000 and Kerry-McCain in 2004 this seems an appealing ticket on the surface, especially if McCain is too damaged by his past mistakes to recover in time.

However, the reality is that this ticket is simply not going to happen and even if it did it would be a mistake on Giuliani (and McCain’s) part. If the past few months have proved only two things, it is that McCain only does well in the role of straight-talking maverick and that a large segment of the Republican party intensely dislike him. While the Republican ‘base’ might be willing to hold their noses and vote for either Giuliani or McCain to prevent Hillary winning, the prescence of both of them ion the ticket would simply give the Republican base one more reason not to vote for him. At the same time McCain’s adherance to Giuliani’s policies would prevent him from winning the support of independants and force him to flip-flop on this issue of torture.

Indeed, if Giuliani wanted to choose a moderate, and it by no means certain that he would be able to do so, it would be more logical to choose someone like Joseph Lieberman who at least agrees with him on abortion (although there is far more overlap between McCain and Lieberman than between McCain and Giuliani). At the same time, having turned down Bush in 2000 and Kerry in 2004, it is doubtful that McCain would want to spend the last act of his political career on the lower half of a losing campaign. Even if Giuliani managed to win the election, it is uncertain that McCain would be interested, in his own words, ‘checking the health of the President’, while Giuliani puts forward many policies that McCain disagrees with.

It is not even like McCain hasn’t got any other options. As I have said before, McCain could (and maybe should) leave the Republican party and run with Joe Lieberman as an independant. Although such a strategy would only have a 25% of winning the White House, a good case could be made for the argument that a three way race would substantially reduce the chances of the Democratic nominee emerging triumphant (and would perform the public service of putting the final nail in a putative Bloomberg candidacy). Indeed, the prevention of a third party candidacy is Giuliani’s real agenda. If Giuliani maintain’s his lead in the polls and performs well in the primaries expect more overture to Giuliani, Lieberman and Bloomberg (and more speculation about a place on ticket) only for him to nominate someone like Sarah Palin, Frank Thomspon or Mike Huckabee. This is a trap that both John McCain and Joe Liberman must avoid. Even if McCain still remains in the race for the Republican nomination, loose talk about accepting the second spot (or implying that Giuliani would be an acceptable alternative) would scupper his campaign.

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