Nice to Meet You, Two (Too)
04-10-2008
When John McCain announced last month that he would be embarking on a biography tour at the end of March, in order to reintroduce himself to the American electorate, I posted an item (somewhat amused) suggesting that while this was something that most nominees feel the need to do, I did not expect it to have much of an impact on the presidential race. The tour would provide an opportunity for McCain to tout some of his leadership qualities and identify their origins in his personal history. But since McCain is one of the best known politicians of the past decade, I did not think that the tour would be particularly eye-opening for voters. If anything, my sense was that it would give the media an opportunity to focus even more intensively on the Democratic race. In the end, the McCain biography tour did get some obligatory press coverage, and even a little bit of criticism from other Republicans that it was too nostalgic (and thus not forward-looking), but not much more.
 
Now the campaign has announced a far more interesting excursion for Senator McCain. It is an outreach tour in which McCain will hold town hall meetings in both urban and rural communities, where he is likely to draw audiences that are heavily comprised of minority populations (and Democrats). In essence, McCain will be campaigning in areas that are not typically considered Republican-friendly terrain, thereby exposing himself to some potentially hostile questioning in the process. Over at Slate, John Dickerson provides a sharp take on this new enterprise, labeling it a form of campaign performance art.
 
While it is true that McCain is not likely to win over large numbers of minority voters, I do think that the tour will garner him greater media attention than did the biography trip, and may (as Dickerson suggests) score McCain some additional points with moderates and independents who admire his willingness to cross over. While there are certainly some risks (of the YouTube sort) with this kind of unscripted exposure, McCain will be at home in his favorite campaign venue, the town hall meeting, a format which has returned big dividends for him in the past.


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