McCain Gets His Chance
Since it now looks like we will have plenty of time to ponder the ongoing battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama (my initial thoughts, here), let’s instead talk about John McCain securing the Republican nomination.
I watched McCain closely in the 2000 New Hampshire Primary, and I came away from that contest with a good sense of his substantial political skills and resiliency. This made it difficult for me to write him off as a potential nominee in 2008, even when he appeared to be down and almost out last summer. His triumph last night underscores the spirit he brought to both of his campaigns in the Granite State.
This time around, McCain benefited from the other Republican candidates’ preoccupation with eliminating Mitt Romney from the field. Written off by much of the national media, McCain was pretty much left alone here to rebuild his struggling campaign along more suitable organizational lines, with minimum conflict or distraction from the other candidates. Similarly, he may now benefit from a Democratic race that will continue to focus on its own complicated internal dynamics, rather than on his nomination.
Still, McCain’s general election campaign will face some significant challenges in the near future. We will see how well the happy warrior adjusts to the constraints of a large national presidential campaign infrastructure. McCain will also confront a difficult fundraising challenge in the coming months, one which will require him to strike a delicate balance between using President Bush to raise big money from the party faithful, and distancing himself from the President on virtually everything else. The relative speed with which all of this comes together for McCain in the next few months will provide a telling preview of his potential strength as a general election candidate in November.
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