How McCain Lost - or How Any Republican Loses

Obama won, yes, but only because McCain lost this election. I won’t address the tactics the Obama campaign utilized to win, as they have been documented elsewhere. I am focusing on McCain.

Firstly, it must be said up-front that Palin was a net gain to McCain. I have heard rumblings from Republican elitists and operatives that Palin ruined McCain’s chances. No, McCain did that. Palin roused the base and, looking at the numbers, people who indicated Palin influenced their votes positively outweigh those who indicated the negative. So, end of that discussion. Really. If you persist, you are operating beyond facts and need to look at your bias.I saw a number in an exit poll around 7pm that told me all I needed to know about how this was going to go. 56% indicated that they were opposed to the financial bailout legislation. 56% – that’s a very large figure and one that I didn’t hear anyone addressing election night. But, it squares with earlier polls on that subject.

Recall that McCain suspended his campaign to return to DC and address the financial brouhaha. He lost the election following this, when he largely remained silent and voted for the legislation. This is for two reasons:

  1. The people’s will was highly against the legislation. What was 56% on election day was 70%+ during this timeframe. McCain had an opportunity to side with the people and against DC and bad business practices on Wall Street.

  2. McCain’s choice to vote in favor of the legislation severly undermined his message of fiscal conservatism, particularly on the issue of pork. The original $700 billion had an add’l $150 billion of PORK added to it before McCain assented. This overlooks the fact that the original $700 billion could be said to be government largesse and pork itself. Because he did not take a principled stand on the issue and no doubt heeded the advice of his counselors, his integrity was cracked.

Following the Republican convention and for the time before the financial crisis hit, McCain was ahead by a statistically significant margin. That a very green Senator with socialist sympathies could overtake a seasoned free-market capitalist on matters of financial integrity – this is solely McCain’s doing.

McCain blamed himself in his concession speech. He was exactly right, even if he didn’t know where he went wrong.

Republicans need to learn – and then learn again and again – that they will always lose when trying to be Democrats. The Republican message is a simple one and the differences should always be made clear to the electorate. “Joe the Plumber” helped with this toward the end, but it was too late. McCain could not have caught Obama, because of the issue I noted. Perhaps if he had publicly stated he was wrong on that vote and elucidated why specifically, McCain could have restored enough confidence to pick off enough votes. Humility is a powerful thing.