By- Suzie-Q @ 10:00 AM MST
From: Carpetbagger Report
Posted May 25th, 2008 at 9:00 am
Six months out, those who feel confident about how the presidential campaign is going to play out are probably kidding themselves. There are too many variables, and the race will take too many twists and turns.
Nevertheless, the Republican establishment is looking ahead. How confident are they? That depends who you ask.
On Thursday, the Politico’s Jonathan Martin and Mike Allen reported that Republican insiders believe landscape looks bleak for McCain and the GOP: “Once optimistic about John McCain’s prospects for the fall general election, Republicans are increasingly concerned that he could wind up badly outgunned, saddled with serious deficiencies of money, organization and partisan intensity against the likely Democratic nominee, Barack Obama.”
A day later, the Politico’s David Paul Kuhn reported the exact opposite: “[M]any top GOP strategists believe he can defeat Barack Obama — and by a margin exceeding President Bush’s Electoral College victory in 2004.” In some Republican circles, Kuhn explained, there’s talk of a McCain “blowout.”
And today, the New York Times’ Adam Nagourney weighs in, siding more with the prior than the latter.
Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign is in a troubled stretch, hindered by resignations of staff members, a lagging effort to build a national campaign organization and questions over whether he has taken full advantage of Democratic turmoil to present a case for his candidacy, Republicans say.
In interviews, some party leaders said they were worried about signs of disorder in his campaign, and if the focus in the last several weeks on the prominent role of lobbyists in Mr. McCain’s inner circle might undercut the heart of his general election message: that he is a reformer taking on special interests in Washington.
“I think any Republican who doesn’t say panic is in the wind is lying through their shirt,” said Ron Kaufman, who was a senior adviser this year for Mitt Romney. “The question is, is that panic caused by McCain’s campaign — or lack thereof in some respects — or is it the climate?”
Panicking in May about an election in November seems pretty foolish, but I will say that McCain seems to have squandered an opportunity. When he officially wrapped up the Republican nomination in early March (after effectively winning it in early February), I’d assumed that McCain would use the ensuing months effectively — while the Dems kept fighting, McCain would raise enormous amounts of money, consolidate the GOP base, and define his campaign before the Dems could do it for him.
I’ve been encouraged by how little of that has actually happened. Some of this isn’t McCain’s fault — he’s had trouble generating much attention for his campaign while the media shines the light on the Democratic drama — but nevertheless, I’m hard pressed to identify any great strides the McCain campaign has made over the last three months. Indeed, McCain has been the Republican nominee for months now, and I’m still not sure what his central campaign message is.
It’s no wonder GOP insiders are feeling antsy.
It’s apparently not helping that the under-funded McCain campaign seems burdened by organizational problems.
Some state party leaders said they were apprehensive about the unusual organization Mr. McCain had set up: the campaign has been broken into 10 semi-autonomous regions, with each having power over things like television advertising and the candidate’s schedule, decisions normally left to headquarters.
More than that, they said, Mr. McCain organizationally still seems far behind where President Bush was in 2004. Several Republican Party leaders said they were worried the campaign was losing an opportunity as they waited for approval to open offices and set up telephone banks.
“They finally assigned someone to West Virginia three weeks ago,” said Doug McKinney, the state Republican chairman there. “I had a couple of contacts with him and I e-mailed him twice and I never heard back. I finally called and they said that the guy had resigned.”
And in terms of public image, the only campaign development that’s generated real interest of late is the fact that McCain has surrounded himself with high-priced elite lobbyists, some of whom had to be fired for controversial client work. It’s hard to know if the story reached a broader, passive audience, but it certainly didn’t help solidify the image the McCain campaign hoped to cultivate right now.
What will be interesting to watch is how (or whether) the Republican establishment responds to their discontent. Stay tuned.
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