McCain's Last Hope?

Arizona senator John McCain is certainly one of the best-known Republican presidential candidates but that notoriety hasn't helped him much when it comes to winning over the conservative base. He hasn't been helped by his support for the recent immigration bill debacle but I think McCain's overall problem has been that he is perceived as a sellout to the left, particularly the media left.

With his support continuing to plummet by the day, McCain doesn't have a lot of chances left to get back in the good graces of the GOP. Over at Slate (h/t Glenn Reynolds), Mickey Kaus wonders if the only chance McCain has left is to turn on his old friends in the liberal media:

A couple of weeks ago, Thomas Edsall wrote a piece on HuffiPo titled "Strategist's Agree: McCain's Only Option is to Turn His Back on Bush." According to Edsall

The only place left for McCain is to be the anti-Bush Republican.

Being the anti-Bush Republican would involve a) attacking Republicans for corruption and overspending, while b) arguing that in Iraq "Bush not only failed to win a winnable war, but that conditions in Iraq are so terrible that withdrawal is now the only reasonable alternative."

Hmm. Sounds as if McCain's only hope, according to the Huffington Post's analyst, is to start sounding a lot like Arianna Huffington. I'm not sure this is a promising way to win a Republican primary, even if the other Republicans split the Republican vote. And there's an alternative to turning against Bush. It's this: Turning against the media.

Republican primary voters don't much like the media, after all. They see reporters as hopelessly biased against the Iraq war and biased against Bush. Reporters were also hopelessly biased in favor of McCain--one reason Republican primary voters didn't much like him either. Or, rather, reporters were biased in his favor until he backed the war and embraced Bush. Now they're piling on the contempt and scorn--which gives McCain a double opportunity: he can bash the hated liberal press while casting himself as the embattled, principled defender of Republican policies even if it costs him his elite Washington friends.

Attacking the media is a tactic that has worked in the past for Republican candidates lacking mojo. Back in the 1988 campaign, George Bush 41 used Dan Rather's infamous attack on him to win back the GOP from Pat Buchanan. It also worked in 2000 when Bush 43 used a few counters against the media for their coverage of his ancient DUI arrest.

If McCain were to embark on a similar strategy, one coupled with a reversal and admission of error on campaign finance censorship, it just might work. Turning himself into another Bush-basher will never work.

Media Bias Debate 2008 Presidential History
Matthew Sheffield's picture