Five Steps to a McCain Victory in November

March 10, 2008

What John McCain’s campaign must do in the next few months to be assured of taking the White House.


1. Set out a clear and consistent vision on Iraq.

Although American opinion is generally antiwar (for the time being) it is willing to be led, as evidenced by the fact that McCain leads Obama and Clinton on both National Security and Iraq. However, if McCain ignores the issues or waffles this will be reversed. He needs to set out the moral, as well as strategic, basis for staying in Iraq. He should also make stability and defeating terrorism, rather the ability to drawdown troops safely, the metric for success. Reminding people of his commitment to liberal intervention in Kosovo would also bolster his standing among liberal hawks and remind people he supported the war before a certain Mr Bush did.

It is axiomatic that McCain cannot win a debate solely on economics or healthcare no matter how much he moves to the centre. Therefore he needs to be draw distinctions between him and the Democrats on foreign policy and national security, otherwise he will be crushed. Karl Rove’s observation that he needs to invite an attack on his Iraq policy sounds counter intuitive, but is very sensible.

2. Appeal to the centre.

Although moving to the centre on economic policy is not sufficient for a victory, it is necessary. This doesn’t mean that he can reverse his positions overnight, but that he has to articulate them in more moderate language and find areas in which he still has some legroom to move to the centre. Regulatory reform (such as in competition policy), education reform and preventative health care are all areas in which he can outflank Hillary on the left. He also needs to really emphasise nuclear power, which could be a vote winner among Conservatives and Independent alike. As William Kristol put it, ‘He could embrace a “Sam’s Club” domestic-policy reform agenda, oriented toward the legitimate concerns of middle-class and working-class families, even if it gives country-club Republicans heartburn’.

3. Chase the Democrats tails (campaign in Blue States).

The Republican campaign strategist Lee Atawater applied this phrase to the process of chasing one opponent’s base. McCain really needs to campaign in blue states, including such states as Massachusetts. This is for the reason that he could easily win a forty state landslide against Obama and to force Hillary Clinton to spend time outside the swing states. His nightmare is Clinton spending all her time in Ohio, Florida, Colorado, Pennslyvania, Michigan and Wisconsin doing the sort of retail politics that she excels at.

4. Use Joe Lieberman

At the very least, Lieberman will play a senior role in the McCain administration. It therefore makes sense to use him as a surrogate on national security and family values, especially on the latter issue. McCain should ask him to give a speaking tour to Republicans and Evangelicals in the Mountain West and South (Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Nevada, Wyoming etc), two areas in which McCain did badly in the primaries. Lieberman can also be useful in getting hawkish Democrats to defect to McCain’s campaign. Having such luminaries as former Congressman Charlie Wilson speaking in Minneapolis in September would be a major blow to the Democrats.

5. Use the Senate

My belief is that McCain should use the Senate to grab the national spotlight. He shouldn’t pander to the right but he could win some brownie points by sponsoring legislation on those values issues which have support across the political spectrum such as drugs, pornography and school prayer. If he can get Lieberman to sponsor such legislation he will magnify the effect of such proposals.



  1. […] but dead last summer, and who is so reviled by so many quarters of the party, could so easily be waltzing to a September coronation in Minneapolis. In short, I would argue, McCain has Rudolph […]

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