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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

McCain Benefits from Democrat's "Soap Opera?"

As the ongoing warfare between Clinton and Obama continues, John McCain has a chance to regroup and prepare his campaign strategy for the coming November general elections. What can he do to remain in the public's mind from now until then?

The slug-fest between Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama continues. Currently, Obama leads in the popular vote and has secured the support of several states, while Clinton has secured several larger states and possibly holds sway over a number of super-delegates for the upcoming Denver convention in August. And the mud is slinging and flying. From Obama's controversial religious ties and affiliations to Clinton's embellishments on her role in international affairs as First Lady, including a very embarrassing version by her of events on her trip to Bosnia, neither candidate is doing themselves any favors as the primary season begins winding down to a close. At this point, both of them are covered with mud, and they're largely not slinging it each other, but winding up falling, face first, into the puddle and muddying themselves.

There is little doubt that either candidate can garner enough support at the polls to become the clear-cut leader going into the convention. Neither candidate seems willing, at this point, to concede to the other and bow out. This leaves the playing field wide open for voters in the remaining primaries and caucuses, and a convention seeing the entry of not one clear choice for the party, but two equally determined individuals to choose from.

The good news is that an ugly convention fight is highly preventable. The one advantage of a scenario that's both completely hair-raising and utterly foreseeable is that everyone has an incentive to stop it. The bad news is what's not preventable: a contest that rolls into June. Even without a messy convention, the current trajectory of the primary campaign could easily destroy the party's White House prospects.

Democrats have never been known for Spock-like rationality, but even they see the logic of avoiding a convention fiasco. "It's in nobody's interest in the Democratic Party for that to happen," says Mike Feldman, another former Gore aide. "There is a mechanism in place--built into the process--to avoid that." That mechanism, such as it is, involves an en masse movement of uncommitted superdelegates to the perceived winner of the primaries. Almost everything you hear from such people suggests this will happen in time. "I think once we have the elected delegate count, things will move fairly quickly, " says Representative Chris Van Hollen, who oversees the party's House campaign committee. Increasingly, there is even agreement on the metric by which a winner would be named. Just about every superdelegate and party operative I spoke with endorsed Nancy Pelosi's recent suggestion that pledged delegates should matter most.

We've all seen exactly how wonderfully Nancy Pelosi can run things by now, haven't we?

With so much focus on the fighting amongst the Democrats, what is going on with the Republican side of the campaign? John McCain is taking a little time to regroup and form his strategy for entry into the general election segment, and Rush Limbaugh has implemented what he calls "Operation Chaos," his plan to keep the "soap opera" of the Democratic primaries race going on through the August convention in Denver.

Folks, we are doing it! Do you realize, we are doing it! Things are happening out there on our terms. Why, this is just fabulous. "McCain leads 46 percent to 40 percent in a hypothetical matchup against Obama in the November presidential election, according to the poll. That is a sharp turnaround from the Reuters/Zogby poll from last month, which showed in a head-to-head matchup that Obama would beat McCain 47 percent to 40 percent. ... Matched up against Clinton, McCain leads 48 percent to 40 percent, narrower than his 50 to 38 percent advantage over her in February. 'It's not surprising to me that McCain's on top because there is disarray and confusion on the Democratic side,' Zogby said." Wait a minute. McCain's on top means Hillary's on bottom. We were told Hillary will never be on bottom, particularly when it comes to this dream ticket.

McCain's campaign manager has stated that the focus for the next phase will be on McCain's positive aspects, his service records both in the navy and in government, and to make the public more aware of who McCain is as an individual. One of the hurdles McCain faces will be in how to best spend his campaign money; McCain is historically not a candidate who has been successful in raising huge amounts of campaign funds. Reestablishing the campaign infrastructure is another priority for the McCain camp, having to rebuild it since it's 2007 collapse due to lack of funding.

McCain is gaining ground in the polls, however, in large part due to the infighting of the Democratic party, and several polls show him leading either top Democrat in the race for the White House in November.

Mr. McCain commands considerable support among independents, especially against Mrs. Clinton, of New York. This suggests that should she win the Democratic nomination, he would have an easier time winning states like New Hampshire and Colorado. Against Mr. Obama, Mr. McCain fares worse among independents but slightly better among Democrats. That signals opportunity in states filled with lunch-bucket Democrats, like Michigan and Ohio.

Long before the Democratic race ends, Mr. Fabrizio said, Mr. McCain must “war game” a strategy and a message for either outcome.

This is probably the main problem facing the McCain camp, for the moment. With no clear cut leader on the Democratic side, McCain can really do little more than await the emergence of the Democrats nominee and ultimate candidate that he will face for the November ballot. Until the August conventions, all any of us can really do is await the outcome of "Operation Chaos."

Once and Always, an American Fighting Man