Everybody wanted it to be the same. But everything was different.
John McCain is different and his Straight Talk Express is different and America is different.
He, and everybody else, is eight years older than the last time he ran for president. The nation is at war, and he no longer is the next, new thing.
This time he is a well-known top-tier candidate, being battered in the polls by an Iraq war whose management he has sharply criticized but whose goals he tenaciously supports.
If by “the polls” Simon means the polls showing Rudy Giuliani ahead of Senator McCain, or yesterday’s poll showing Romney closing in on the top two candidates in New Hampshire, it is simply wrong to assert that Senator McCain’s disappointing numbers are because of the Iraq War. Republican primary voters support the war and the surge, as do almost all of the Republican Congressional leadership and both Giuliani and Romney.
The reasons for Senator McCain’s weakness among likely Republican primary voters are: McCain-Feingold, The Gang of 14, McCain-Kennedy, and the September 2006 smash up of the GOP’s legislative agenda. Add to this record Senator McCain’s almost complete unwillingness to even engage conservative voters whether t CPAC or on talk radio, and you get the real explanation behind the sagging McCain fortunes.
I talked to Fred Thompson last night, really just to share with him the tremendous support that he has received from all of you who have blogged on the Volpac web site over the past 4 days. In your messages many of you have given specific suggestions, and I passed them on to him. If there are messages, or ideas that you’d like to get to Fred, write them below, to stimulate others with your ideas, and I will share them with Fred. Now is the time for big ideas … big, true conservative ideas that rise above the fray. Fred is listening. He will carefully consider running over the next several weeks. His public statements exactly reflect what he is thinking inside.
Sure, some of this is back scratching of a fellow Volunteer State retired senator.
But a lot of it is also the reflection of the lack of enthusiasm within the Senate GOP (and its alums and their Beltway networks) for either Senator McCain or Senator Brownback. Mayor Giuliani and Governor Romney are outside-the-Beltway candidates, and the Beltway wants a horse in the race, and Senator McCain isn’t it.
Yesterday on The Situation Room Wolf Blitzer told me I wasn’t alone in speculating whether Senator McCain might abandon the race. “[Y]ou’ll be interested to know,” Wolf stated, “you probably agree with James Carville, because he sees John McCain dropping out, as well.”
If Senator McCain does either drop out or fares poorly in early 2008, it won’t be because of his support for the Iraq War. That support is in fact what keeps him viable in the GOP race.