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November 30, 2005

Republican McCainiacs?

You guys probably don't need me to interpret this, but suffice to say the much-mentioned troubles McCain faces in the primary aren't made up:

Then respondents were read the following question: "Some people say that McCain would be a good candidate for president because he has demonstrated a great deal of personal integrity… he has a strong military background and he has independent political views; while other people say McCain would not be a good candidate for president because at age 72 (his age in the fall of 2008) he is too old to run for president, he is too stubborn in his issue positions and he does not always represent Republican views on the issues." (In both the McCain and Clinton statements, the orders of the pro and con statements were rotated and sequence of each statement randomized.) "Which of those two statements comes closer to your point of view on John McCain running for president in 2008?"

Among all adults, 48 percent were pro-McCain and 35 were anti-McCain. Among registered voters, 49 percent were pro-McCain and 34 percent were anti-McCain. But among Republicans, just 41 percent agreed more with the pro-McCain statements, while 45 percent favored the anti-McCain arguments. Among Democrats, it was 47 percent pro-McCain, 32 percent anti-McCain. Among independents, a whopping 55 percent agreed with the pro-McCain option and 29 percent agreed with the anti-McCain option.

Interesting stuff. McCain does marginally better among Republicans likely to vote in the primaries, but the numbers remain tepid. With so many other Republicans to choose from, that'll prove a problem.

November 30, 2005 | Permalink

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Maybe. But I'm not so sure. I was impressed by the recent numbers reported for McCain archived at Polling Report that 66% of Repubs surveyed (granted it was a small sample) said they were very or somewhat likely to vote for him while only 24% said the opposite. In the WSJ poll, only 19% of Repubs said they absolutely wouldn't support him in a primary. That's a problem in a 2- or 3-person field, but with every Republican and his aunt planning to run, it's probably not such a big deal. Plus, there's been a fair amount reported that McCain is being perceived more favourably by the Repub elites than he used to be. In 2000, he probably was less electable than Bush, or at least that's what the early polling said, so there was both a Christian Right wingnut and a general election case against him. But now, he's probably the most electable candidate. That might bode well for him. Plus, my overall impression from all the numbers I've seen is that the negative feelings against him among most Repub primary voters are mainly grumbling feelings, not open loathing, and could be reversed by a consolodated push from the Repub establishment.

My biggest fear is that the wingnut bloc won't be able to stop him, that he's perceived as the heir apparent. I haven't seen that much evidence to the contrary. I hope I'm wrong. McCain would be a terrible president for liberals, even if not as aesthetically bad as Bush. And he'll be really hard to beat in the general election.

Posted by: Laura | Nov 30, 2005 5:21:03 PM

That's an interesting poll format. I'm curious about whether adding that extra information allows one to better simulate the way people will think after several months of campaigning, or if the extra info distorts things.

I wonder if the forces of corruption within the GOP will reject him in favor of somebody like George Allen.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Nov 30, 2005 5:27:02 PM

The sound I heard was Chris Matthews' heart sinking.

Actually, the question I have is this:

if Guiliani or Romney or a 'centrist' enters the field, doesn't that split the moderate GOP vote and leave someone like Brownback with an advantage in the early primary states?

Further, does McCain actively pander the religious voters in Iowa to stave off a challenge from Brownback, or is he more concerned that a centrist like Romney/Rudy would call him craven for doing so and damaging McCain's credibility with the press (his greatest advantage right now)?

Posted by: Chris R | Nov 30, 2005 5:55:17 PM

Chris: There's much to be said for your analysis.

The flip side is, a two- or three- or four-way split of social conservatives between Allen, Huckabee, Brownback, Frist, and maybe somebody else (Hagel?), would make it easier for McCain to win the nomination.

As for the pandering to the right to gain support in Iowa, the straw poll isn't that seriously considered. All it does is whittle out a few not-really-legitimate candidates. I think any "centrist" executive like Romney or Giuliani could start calling McCain craven anyway, for various position shifts as a result of being in the senate.

Posted by: Nicholas Beaudrot | Nov 30, 2005 7:30:05 PM

Thing is, who else can the GOP possibly put forward? Whatever one might think of McCain himself, every other Republican who's expressed interest in running is a fucking clown.

Posted by: sglover | Nov 30, 2005 8:37:02 PM

sglover, when has clownhood ever stopped them?

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Nov 30, 2005 8:55:57 PM

I think that McCain has been trying to run for president for quite some time. Republicans need to move on at this point.

Posted by: Stacy Rosenbaum | Nov 30, 2005 9:02:35 PM

I don't think McCain can win unless the field is cleared for him, and there's no way that happens. In as much as the GOP is better at attack politics, and will select its candidates in large part by their skill in that regard, it will be hard for McCain to withstand what will approach South Carolina style attacks. The media will not, and indeed cannot save him, no matter how much they fawn over him. He'll have to claw his way over the likes of Allen and Brownback, and I can't see him doing it. Plus, if the GOP is panicked enough to nominate him, it will probably be too late for them anyways. Unless it's Hillary.

Posted by: SamAm | Dec 1, 2005 1:06:50 AM

McCain? At 72, the hurdles are just too high for a long-due-for retirement public figure.

Allen? Brownback? Gingrich? Frist? Romney? Come, on, this isn't a race for dogcatcher.

Guiliani and Jeb Bush seem like a credible candidates (for something (said with a smile)), but without an eminent disaster facing the Repubs after 2006 is over, Guliani is poison to much of the Red party base.

Is it possible that Jeb ends up being the candidate just because no one else has both some credibility and isn't base-poison? Is the Bush name also poison now - if it isn't it should be.

300 million Americans, and we face these choices? Is it possible that the Republicans have no person that can be taken seriously that isn't poison to the BushCo base?

The Dems have somewhat similar problems on candidate selection, but don't have a rabid no-nothing base, and so many characters without character like the Repubs.

Posted by: JimPortandOR | Dec 1, 2005 3:27:39 AM

sglover, when has clownhood ever stopped them?

Well, remember, in 2000 Bush's real agenda was carefully wrapped in gauzy "compassionate conservatism". Nowadays, the guys most likely to take on McCain all have records that are gonna be hard to live down. Tancredo? Gingrich? Christ, Buddy Hackett has more appeal and gravitas than those assholes. Maybe Giuliani's got a shot, but I suspect his aura will dim mighty quickly in a national mudslinging contest, and as another comment points out, he's anathema to many GOP true believers....

Posted by: sglover | Dec 1, 2005 9:59:24 AM

I like Guiliani a lot, and I think he has a shot at winning the primary. There is a lot of time between now and then of course, but I think those who think he is anathema to social conservatives underestimate his positives to that group (yes, the negatives exist, but I think the positives will outweigh them for many of that ilk.)

As for McCain, there are some things I like about him, and some things I hate about him. McCain-Feingold was a deal breaker for me on ever supporting him absent a truley repulsive opponant. And that includes prefering a number of Democrats to him if he should win the Republican Primary.

Posted by: Dave Justus | Dec 1, 2005 11:25:30 AM

Its been so long since we've had a Republicans eat their young party that I can't envision it happening. When was the last time prominent Conservative pols got together and actually duked it out? This will be necessary for any of the above names to get out in front. Yet it seems to me that everyone on that side of the aisle has been patting each other on the back for a job (supposedly) well done. To me, seeing Conservatives getting nasty with each other might bust that 8 year happy aura around the party. Maybe enough to surpass even what might happen to their image in 2006.

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