Saturday, October 20, 2007

McCain Deserves a Second Look

Kate O'Beirne has a great article up today at the National Review on John McCain's presidential prospects. She argues that McCain might in fact be the most formidable candidate in the GOP presidential field. Check it out:

While Hillary Clinton is looking like a sure bet for her party’s nomination, only the reckless would wager their own money on the likely Republican nominee. With the presence of Fred Thompson and the absence of Newt Gingrich, the GOP field is now complete — and completely without a conventional frontrunner. Its fluidity has prompted a second look by the rank and file: Republicans seeking to keep their party’s base intact, while appealing to independents in order to have a shot at defeating Hillary, are taking another look at John McCain.

A veteran GOP congressional aide who has been a critic of McCain, most recently on the issue of immigration, recently surprised himself by concluding that the Arizona senator would be the best general-election candidate. This strategist seeks a nominee who will unify and energize the base, who has the potential to win, and who makes fellow Republicans competitive. He notes that McCain is pro-life and strong on national security, and has long been in favor of fiscal restraint. In addition to unifying social, economic, and national-security conservatives, he argues, McCain has a maverick image that can appeal to the independent voters who abandoned the GOP in droves in 2006.
O'Beirne performs some nice comparative analysis on the top candidates' poll standings, and it turns out that despite popular perceptions, McCain runs just as well against Hillary Clinton in head-to-head matchups as does Rudy Giuliani (Giuliani's general election electability is a main reason many Republicans say they'll back him). Here's more:

McCain is a conservative whose heterodox views on campaign-finance reform and immigration are shared by the more liberal Giuliani. With the defeat of the “comprehensive” immigration bill he championed, McCain recognizes that the public demands concrete enforcement measures — and he now pledges to secure the border before pressing for the legalization of illegal aliens. (He will, of course, have to convince conservatives that he is a genuinely reformed reformer committed to an “enforcement first” agenda.)

Finally, McCain is in a long-term, stable second marriage and talks to all his children, although not as frequently as he would like. One son is a midshipman at the Naval Academy and another is an enlisted Marine serving in Iraq.

Should Republicans reject the false choices being offered — and make a considered choice based on the man and the merits — a second look could give John McCain a second chance.
McCain remains my candidate for the GOP nomination. Throughout the year I've stated my credentials as a national security voter, and McCain's knowledge and resolve on American national security can't be matched by any of the other top contenders. While O'Beirne doesn't stress it, the improved situation in Iraq may also help McCain look more and more like like a winner.