Why McCain will lose the election

I believe McCain will lose to Obama for two reasons.

First, many Republicans do not like him — and vice versa.  I cannot recall another Presidential candidate so out of synch with his Party’s base.

Second, he does not want the job with the intensity necessary to win this most intense of personal contests.  The way we select our Presidents is deeply irrational, almost guaranteeing the winner is unsuited for the job.  It requires a maniacal drive to win, and I doubt he has it. 

Peggy Noonan is IMO one of the most experienced and insightful political commentators working today.  She’s an intuitive genius.  Here she looks at John McCain.

Let McCain Be McCain“, Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal columnist, 27 June 2008 — Excerpt:

His {McCain’s} campaign is still not in great shape, his advance operation is not sharp — the one thing Republicans always used to know how to do! — he has many aides and few peers, and aides so doofuslike they blithely talk about the partisan impact of terror attacks.

And there is another problem that is bigger than all of that, and he is going to have to think himself through it. And that is that there is a sense about his campaign that John McCain has already got what he wanted, he got what he needed, which was to be top dog in the Republican Party, the party that had abused him in 2000 and cast him aside.  They all bow to him now, and he doesn’t need anything else.  He doesn’t need the presidency.  He got what he wanted.  So now he can coast.

This is, in the deepest way, unserious. JFK had to have the presidency-he wanted that thing.  Nixon had to have it too, and Reagan had to have it to institute his new way.  Clinton had to have it — it was his destiny, the thing he’d wanted since he was a teenager.

The last person I can think of who gave off the vibe that he didn’t have to have it was Bob Dole.  Who didn’t get it. And who had a similar lack of engagement in terms of policy, and philosophy, and meaning.

November is many months away, with many opportunities for the election to take unexpected turns.  But as it looks, I will stick with my February forecast (aka guess) that Obama will win.

Please share your comments by posting below (brief and relevant, please), or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

Other posts about the election

1.  How the Iraq and Vietnam wars are mirror images of each other  (7 February 2008) — Now we have McCain, the leading Republican Presidential candidate, talking of an open-ended commitment to victory in Iraq.

2.  What do blogs do for America?  (26 February 2008) — As our problems reach critical dimensions and our economy sinks into what is (at best) a severe recession, our national leadership will likely move into the hands of someone with astonishingly little capacity to govern. 

3.  A look at the next phase of the Iraq War: 2009-2012  (1 March 2008) — What is next in Iraq?  None of the leading candidates have expressed any intention of leaving Iraq – except in the distant and vague future.  McCain intends to fight so long as (or until) we suffer few casualties, then stay for a long time (perhaps a hundred years, as McCain said here and here) ).  On the other hand, Obama has been quite explicit…

4.  Our metastable Empire, built on a foundation of clay (3 March 2008) — We can elect leaders with vast ambitions (foreign for McCain, domestic for Obama), but can no longer afford them. 

5.  How long will all American Presidents be War Presidents? (21 March 2008) — The Presidential campaign rolls on in the seventh year since 9/11, with the only debate about the Long War being in which nations America should fight. We see this even the speeches of the most “liberal” candidate, Senator Barack Obama.

6.  American history changes direction as the baton passes between our political parties  (18 May 2008) – Importance of the November 2008 political landslide.

7.  President Obama, an Muslim apostate?  (2 June 2008) — Nope.

8.  Is Obama running for the office of Chief Shaman?   (6 June 2008) — Weirdness from our next President.  Perhaps this is what we want.

21 thoughts on “Why McCain will lose the election”

  1. While I agree with your assessment I am extremely uncomfortable with declaring the Democratic contender to be the winner. The Dem’s seem to have a god-given talent for messing up in an important way and the Republican attack dogs haven’t even gotten started yet.

    Anybody who disagrees with can have my “Re-elect Jimmy Carter”, “Elect Walter Mondale”, “Michael Dukakis NOW”, “Al Gore 2000”, and “John Kerry ’04” campaign buttons. I’d throw in my two Bill Clinton campaign buttons but they have a Lewinski stain that just won’t come out.

  2. Noonan says *wanting* the presidency badly is the best predictor of who will win it. If that were true, Hillary would be the Dem nominee now.

    Did George Bush really *want* the presidency badly? He certainly seemed confused and disoriented once he got there. Did rumsfeld and Cheney and the neo-conservatives want the presidency badly? Absolutely! Is it possible that it’s not mcCain but some parts of the Republican establishment that dont want the Presidency this year?

    An Asia Times writer today has an article on the possible “poisoned chalice” of a presidential victory this year, as the global financial meltdown accelarates and swamps any American president’s ability to deal with it. In this situation, the wise choice might be to wait another four years.
    Fabius Maximus replies: I disagree. She says that “wanting” to win is a necessary but not sufficient condition for victory.

  3. Christopher W.

    It’s going to be an odd sort of election, and probably an odd presidency to follow. McCain, as noted above, doesn’t seem to have the fire in the belly it takes to really fight this thing-he’s been taking weekends more or less off from campaigning. Neither candidate seems to want to go for personal attacks (we can only hope this continues), and I don’t think Obama is as liberal as some would have it.

    It’ll probably be a Democratic sweep, but there will be a lot of “blue dog” Democrats elected. Throwing my two cents in, an Obama presidency will probably either:

    1) Go the Clinton “triangulation” route, with Obama playing centerist to the more extreme factions in either party (or being able to portray them as extreme), or

    2) Go the Carter “muddle” with significant disaffection from his own party, which, like Carter, will probably end up in control of both houses of Congress.

    The success or failure of an Obama presidency will also depend on what the economy does, and how it is handled. Modest tax increases probably won’t screw things up too much, and a lot of Obama’s economic advisors are less Keynesian than Friedmanite. We shall see.

  4. John Shreffler

    Obama will be another FDR. He loves power and is intelligent enough to use it the way FDR used it to enhance the US position. Hopefully, Obama will be able to figure out how to conserve our global position, which is currently suffering from what Paul Kennedy calls “imperial over-stretch.” We’ll see. I tend to agree with Gen. Clark about McCain, who is in fact a war hero but there’s nothing to suggest he has either the experience or judgement needed in our current strategic state of affairs.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Perhaps. But FDR came into office after 2 years in the NY State Senate, 7 years as SecNavy, and 4 years as Governor of NY. Obama lacks this experience; I do not understand why his supporters consider experience of such little significance. Like General Clark, whose remarks apply with even greater force to his own favored candidate as well as McCain.

  5. John Shreffler

    FM, Frederick the Great used to say of experience that he had a mule who had been on 20 campaigns and had yet to become a Field Marshal. As Gen. Clark says, Obama isn’t running on his experience but rather his judgement, which has up till now been good.

    My take is that no one is ever ready to be President based on experience. Perhaps Ike is the exception but FDR’s experience for instance was minimal really. The Navy was very small potatoes under Wilson, even factoring in WW 1 and being Governor even of a state like NY doesn’t get you ready for the world stage. When things are in flux, experience limits vision. Petain was not the fellow to have had in charge of the French Army in the early 30’s for instance. And the South had most of the experienced officers of the pre-war Army, which cost them the war. They never did get the hang of railroads.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Perhaps. But this “experience is not important” seems to be in practice applied only to high office in America (F the Great did not follow his own advice). There are few top jobs other than Presidency that get filled without regard to experience (except those requiring extensive academic training in lieu of experience). Few other nations appoint Presidents or Prime Ministers with so little experience.

    What is the record of Obama’s wonderful judgement? Or is this a fantastical element conjured up to substitute for experience?

    This is not an op-ed favoring McCain, who has a different and equally massive set of weaknesses. I consider neither of these guys fit for the Presidency, although Obama might make a great President after gaining more experience. That these are our choices suggests to me that the system has become disfunctional.

    Also: SecNavy was a senior government position in the early 20th century. The gov’t was much smaller, lacking the SecDef and White House National Security Advisor apparatus. I do not understand how you can so lightly dismiss this and being Gov of the largest State at that time. What would have been better experience at that time? A term as God?

  6. How would one rates the two candidates ability to pick the right people to help them form and implement policy? A lack of experience can be compensated for with good advisors. Which seems rather important with the American way of running your administration.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Great question, which we little ability to evaluate. History shows that the advisors highlighted during the campaign are often ornaments, tossed away after the election.

    This is a weak basis on which to evaluate candidates. I had hoped Bush Jr. would be like Truman (who had one of the best-ever cabinets). And we know how that worked out.

  7. So what do you think should be the minimum baseline of experience in order to be qualified to be president?
    Fabius Maximus replies: Not a simple question, with many variables! Private/public. Mix of experience (local, state, national). Executive, legislative, judicial. Leadership displayed. What was accomplished (Bush Sr had an impressive list of jobs held, a less impressive list of acheivements in those jobs)?

    FDR and Lincoln both had long records, but very different ones. Both prepared them well for the Presidency.

  8. And maybe, just maybe, McCain being himself, an old guy with the memories of the service to country of his grandfather, his father, and his own service in harm’s way, in not needing the presidency to prove anything to anybody including himself, carries exactly the attitude we need into the White House. Just a thought.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Perhaps so in terms of being President. But that attitude — rightly or wrongly — does not help win the Presidency today.

  9. Experience, vision, intelligence, morality — these qualities seem to make no difference to the outcome of a Presidency, yet they are thought by the electorate (or thought to be thought by the electorate) as critical factors to evaluate.

    In the long run, effectiveness can mean only whether a president moves the country in the direction of history, or bumps up against it. By that standard, Truman and Eisenhowwer were mainly effective Presidents — all the rest have had mixed results, dictated by America’s untenable role of global goliath.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Perhaps so. But that is an inherently ex post standard — hindsight. We do not have the verdict of history when picking leaders.

  10. I don’t give a @#$% who becomes C-in-C.Just wanna see him steer the U.S. away from all its present woes.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Now if we could only know what those woes were, and the course that takes us away from them at the best price and lowest risk.

    On the other hand, seeing the President as Captain of the Ship of State is a bit of an authoritarian view. See the post going up on this subject at noon GMT tomorrow!

  11. How do we reform the system so only experienced candidates are elected to President? Do we start with the electoral college? Popular voting? The media? Why do people only vote for Presidents based on criteria not necessary for the job? Our system has been in place for over 200 years and its very difficult to replace something that’s worked pretty well overall for most of those 200 years.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Not every problem is a flaw in the system. In this case there is nothing wrong with the system. We just have to try to do better. We can do better. See tomorrow post for more about this.

  12. I disagree with Noonan. I don’t think there’s any way that McCain wants the presidency any less than Obama. McCain doesn’t endure running for the nomination twice, especially after what he endured in South Carolina in 200, unless he wants it.

    McCain’s biggest problems are lack of money, no coherent narrative, and being closely associated with a president who has horrible approval ratings.

    * First, Obama absolutely crushes McCain in fundraising ($270 million to $120) which enables Obama to stretch the field and put up more advertising.
    * Second, McCain’s attacks on Obama change from week to week; he’s an elitist, he’s un-American, he’s weak on terror, he’s too inexperienced, he’s a liberal, etc. Like Clinton in the Democratic nomination, he’s grasping at straws trying to find an effective, sustainable narrative.
    * Finally, although McCain has mocked him being a ‘third Bush term’, the public views it very differently regardless of it’s veracity. A recent Gallup poll that 49% of those surveyed said they were very concerned about McCain continuing Bush’s policies, with 19% being somewhat concerned. Source for Gallup Poll

  13. Whoa Fabius

    I was very complimentary last on last post, but anointing Peggy as some kind of oracle? She is a good writer and obviously a smart person, but she reminds me a lot of Dick Morris. She has an insiders knowledge but some HORRENDOUS blind spots.

    Conservatives may not think of McCain as the ideal guy BUT they are coming around. Especially as Obama does the most amazingly transparent rush-to-the-center in the history of POTUS elections! I was a expecting a few 40-60 degree moves but the 180’s are breathtaking!

    Also Novak was the only columnist who had the guts to discuss the “Bradley Effect”. So polls this time around will be less accurate than ever. If you want a current example: Iowa vs New Hampshire primaries. Check the results with the pre count polls. One a caucus one a primary. Draw your own conclusions. It is hard to admit in this day and age but it does exist even (maybe especially) among liberals. JLK
    Fabius Maximus replies: I agree with you about Noonan. I was not clear. She has extraordinary intuition but IMO is not analytical, which puts sharp limits on her writing (like the blind spots you refer to).

    As for the rest, you might be correct. Elections are among the most unpredictable of events!

  14. Hi Fabius
    Good we are on the same page. Now lets see if I get accused of racism for even bringing up the “Bradley Effect”. Certain hot button issues bring out the worst in people’s knee-jerk reactions. Even though I am pointing out an ugly truth it will probably be misconstrued. JLK
    Fabius Maximus replies: Problaby not, here at least. The “Bradley Effect” is just sociology.

    In any case, I suspect that after years of “racism” and “sexism” being used as a general utility condemnations, they have lost much of their impact from overuse.

  15. McCain will shoe it in with a comfortable majority. Now we are talking about the US. It is split by economics, religion and race. The idea of a left of centre, black, Democrat winning an election? In the US? Ok FM, $100 bet on that one ($ Australian of course, so you will win on the exchange rate, I’m being fair), easy money. Alternatively the loser pays the money to the other’s chosen charity.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Yes, and folks knew that John Kennedy could not win (too much fear of Papists in the Democrat base). Obama is leading in many polls, which proves that he has a reasonable chance of winning.

  16. Hi Fabius

    Off topic (sorry) but I am hearing a lot of fear and loathing about a strike on Iran…either by Israel or the US. Does this meet your criteria as a discussion point on your forum?

  17. Obama’s charisma and wit is what makes him great.

    It’s not necessarily what he can literally do to change our country, but the belief that he can. The reason he is popular is because of this; change. Young replaces old, etc.

    It’s more about how he can inspire the American people to make the changes themselves than him doing it for us. Inspiration, hope, excitement; these are the things that he brings to the table, and these are the things we need at the moment.

    Don’t worry, he will have tons of people helping him make decisions, all of whom have lots of experience, and he has the intelligence to listen to that experience.

    …not what your country can do you for, but what you can do for your country…

    Inspiration, vision, hope, etc. etc. THE PEOPLE NEED TO BE REVITALIZED!

  18. Consider: he’s already lost the election. He’s totally out of touch with reality, perhaps his environment. The way America is going, (under the worst administration in all human and global history), if we even make it to the election, Obama should have such a landslide victory. I predict McCain won’t even carry his home state.

  19. JFK had an advantage his father was extremely wealthy. Obama also has an advantage his father gave him.;he’s half black. It is said to be a disadvantage; that he is surmounting a huge obstacle but in fact it is clear that it works for him far more than against. Black men had the vote a long long time before white women. Hilary could never have won against McCain.
    To the extent that people are influenced by the mass media they’ll vote for Obama

  20. It was Plato who said, in so many words, that a great leader should never strive for a position of power, but to accept it reluctantly. Seeing the hardship and responsibility that comes with such power, that a great leader would rather live amongst his people doing day to day activities, but will accept such a position if his people called for him.

    Look at those who represent us today. They fight and fight for the most powerful position. Authority is wanted. It is chased after. Why?

    One only needs to look back to America’s first true “battle” for presidency; Thomas Jefferson vs. John Adams. Neither Jefferson nor Adams directly contributed to their “campaigns.” they quite literally sat back, reluctantly acknowledged their running (nonchalantly), and let their people decide who was best.

    I think we need to take some lessons from history here.

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