Some thoughts on Kansas, Louisiana and Washington

February 10, 2008

Where should McCain go from here?


It is very clear that McCain did very badly last night. He was crushed in Kansas, edged out in Lousiana and won by the narrowest of margins in Washington, a state that he should have won easily. It is clearly obvious that McCain’s decision to stay off the campaign trail and instead spend time courting conservatives at CPAC was a mistake. He needs to hit the campaign trail in all three ‘Potomac Tuesday’ states and put Huckabee away for good. Huckabee cannot win on his own but he can either force a brokered convention or put an incredible amount of pressure on McCain to select him as his vice-president. Also, the longer it takes for McCain to get to 1,100 delegates the more time the Democrats have to tie him to the right of the Republican party. McCain also needs to avoid re-making the mistakes that he made in early 2007, which was to focus on Republican grandees whose allegiance to him was tenuous at best.

When McCain does get the majority of delegates, or forces Huckabee aside, he needs to make it clear that he will run the campaign his way and not let failed party hacks dictate to him. McCain is not a vindictive man, and in fact is someone who has bent over backwards to make peace with former foes. However, he needs to make it crystal clear that his victories in all areas of America, mean that he will be in charge of everything from the Republican platform to the choice of running-mate and he will not make any more concessions to the right. After all, the experience of George HW Bush in 1992 and Bob Dole in 1996 are saluatory lessons in the consequences of focusing more on pacifying the base of the party than on winning over moderate voters.

Of course McCain could be trying to placate the right so that he can nominate Joe Lieberman as his running mate without a convention walkout. However, in that case McCain should be placating social not economic conservatives. McCain will also need to negotiate with them from a point of strength, which he can’t do if they come to the Republican convention thinking that they have a shot at actually winning. Indeed, if Huckabee wins a stream of primaries the demands for him to be vice-president will grow exponentially. If, on the other hand, Huckabee is forced out by a string of defeats he will be willing to accept a role as a keynote speaker and a greater emphasis on morality and values, in return for accept Lieberman on the ticket.


One comment

  1. I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you.

    Peter Quinn

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