McCain the Reformer saddled up and rode once again last night. Swinging into full maverick mode, the newly-minted Republican nominee pledged to shake up business-as-usual in Washington, and went out of his way to extend the olive branch of bipartisanship to all takers. I wish him luck with that second task. Given the two days of Obama-bashing that preceded McCain’s acceptance speech and culminated in the Sarah Palin tour de force, I don’t imagine the Democratic majorities likely to control Congress next January will be in much of a mood to compromise. And if you tuned in to hear what McCain’s reformist impulse might mean in policy terms for the future of our country, you were probably disappointed.
Still, I have watched John McCain up-close in New Hampshire for almost 10 years, and when he urged Americans to fight for what's right for our country that was vintage McCain straight from the heart. It is now clear to me that going forward McCain will use reform, rather than policy differences, as the primary means of distinguishing himself from President Bush. His surprising (and equally heartfelt) attack on the moral failings of the Republican Party represented a political down payment on this strategy. But we won’t know for some time whether this promise of reform will be sufficient to sway voters disheartened by the current state of affairs.
For more analysis of the post-convention presidential race, and also Tuesday's state primaries, you can catch me as a guest on New Hampshire Public Television's NH Outlook this Sunday at 9:30 a.m., or on Monday at 6 p.m.
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