Avoiding McCain II

If, like me, you’re praying for the 2012 Presidential Election to result in Barack Obama being a One-Term President, the good news is that the most recent Gallup Poll shows that the “Republican Candidate” (generic) leads Obama 47% to 39%. The bad news is that when you fill in “generic” with any name from the current field of candidates, polls indicate that Obama holds the lead over (or, at least, is tied with) each of these candidates.

Thankfully, for now, most Republicans seem to be trying to cleave to Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment … “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.” … so their relentless knit-picking of each candidate who comes along seems to have waned. Perhaps that is due to the fact that they recognize what has even been acknowledged by one writer at the Huffington Post – i.e. “The least qualified Republican candidate, stands head and shoulders above the qualificat­ions of the incompeten­t guy we now have in the White House.” Just the same, an aire of unease seems to remain amongst the GOP faithful. I believe the source of this anxiety is what I call “The Fear of McCain II.”

“McCain II” is my metaphor for a repeat of what happened with the 2008 Republican Presidential Nomination. Though I will always honor John McCain as a true American hero, I don’t believe he was the best candidate the GOP could have put forward as their 2008 Presidential Nominee. But, like many, I voted for McCain in the General Election, not because he was “my guy” but because he was my preference over Obama.

In order to deal with the angst of loyal Republicans due to the possibility of “McCain II”, it only makes sense to develop a strategy to avoid that. Logically, the first step in this development process is to consider how “McCain I” happened. My view is that, in general, this was the result of the GOP doing “business as usual”, from the time candidates started emeging up through the 2008 RNC in St.Paul, MN. By contrast, the Democrat Party and the Obama Campaign recognized that the 2008 political landscape called for anything but “business as usual”. Their “audacious” approach handed the GOP a huge defeat in that year. That, of course, was discouraging for the GOP faithful. What’s more discouraging is that, so far, the Republican Party seems to be taking the same “business as usual” approach in the current political season. For evidence of this, you only need to look as far as the “top candidate” in the current field of Republican presidential hopefuls.

Mitt Romney is, presently, the clear leader amongst the “top candidates.” According to a new Washington Post-ABC News Poll, “Romney also runs ahead of the pack on three crucial attributes: leadership, experience and, perhaps most important, who can beat the president next year.” However, a related report in the Washington Post goes on to say, “Romney’s support is tepid, particularly among the party’s most energized constituency — the strong supporters of the tea party movement.” My belief is that the primary reason that “Romney’s support is tepid” is a fear of “McCain II.” Frankly, I would vote for Romney for President in the 2012 General Election, but it would only be because he would be my preference over Obama, not because he’s “my guy.” Obviously, for me, having this happen would add up to “McCain II.” Fortunately, though Romney is the current “front runner”, there are several other Republican “top candidates” to consider.

Though unannounced, Sarah Palin remains a “top candidate.” The Washington Post report I mentioned also provides a good thumbnail sketch on the outlook for her prospective candidacy. It notes:

“Sarah Palin’s lingering power to shake up the race if she decides to run.” … “the hold that Palin still has on segments of the party faithful despite some long-standing liabilities and deep skepticism among many voters about her qualifications.” … “Palin tops the list as the most empathetic figure. She runs almost even with Romney on the question of who best reflects the party’s core values and on who is most compatible with people on the issues.”

Texas Governor Rick Perry has also been expressing a growing interest in a possible candidacy. Here again, the Washington Post article I mentioned offers a good synopsis of this “top candidate”:

“As the longtime governor of a big state that has produced more jobs than any other state in the country, Perry is seen by some Republicans as a potentially serious threat to Romney. But he is far from a dominant figure in the assessment of rank-and-file Republicans. He attracts the support of 8 percent, with or without Palin in the race, and he is in single digits on all six attributes as well.”

And, as cited earlier, there are numerous other Republican candidates, the least of whom, in the words of the Huffington Post author, have credentials that are “head and shoulders above the qualificat­ions of the incompeten­t guy we now have in the White House.” Although I’m not going to attempt to provide a summary for the candidacy status of each of these individuals, there is another “top candidate” I want to draw attention to in this regard. It’s the candidate mentioned at the outset of this article … the “Republican Candidate” (generic) who, according to the recent Gallup Poll, leads Obama 47% to 39%. Of course, successful campaigning on the part of one of the candidates I’ve named up to now could lead to that person inheriting the poll-leadership of the “generic candidate”. Mostly, though, the present poll-leadership of the “generic candidate” implies that party faithful are hoping there are one or more superior candidates out there who, for now, have chosen not to join in the race.

So, how does this all fit together and what does it tell us about how to avoid “McCain II?” My belief is that all this clearly indicates the necessity for the Republican Party to proactively get behind a candidate now, instead of taking a “business as usual” approach.” One way of doing this is for the party, as an example, to identify the reasons why “Romney’s support is tepid” and if this is a result of perceptions that can honestly be corrected, to work with the candidate to correct them and give him the party’s full support. Of course, this approach could also be applied to Palin’s “long-standing liabilities and deep skepticism among many voters about her qualifications” and with the view of Perry as being “far from a dominant figure in the assessment of rank-and-file Republicans”. If the GOP was to take this approach with all of it’s “top candidates”, an added benefit could be encouraging some of those superior candidates, who have chosen not to be in the race at present, to get in.

I recognize that the idea of the RNC selecting a candidate for the party’s full support at this stage of the game is very naïve and not very practical. But it is just that … an idea … a suggestion for something different and better than “business as usual.” Without a different and better approach, we’re almost certain to get “McCain II.” So, Republican National Committee, you folks are the professionals to whom we’ve entrusted our party. If you don’t like this idea, please tell us what you have in mind that’s different and better. I don’t care how dissimilar what you have in mind is from the idea I’ve presented. All I care about is that it’s not “business as usual” and please, that it doesn’t give us “McCain II.”