Friday, December 21, 2007

John McCain Reviving Frontrunner Status

New polling data has Senator John McCain pulling into the top tier among candidates in the GOP presidential field. Here are the findings from the new USA Today poll of New Hampshire voters:

Among Republicans, Mitt Romney's lead has narrowed to single digits over John McCain, who hopes to repeat the victory here that ignited his presidential campaign in 2000....

Romney leads McCain, 34%-27%. Including only those whose votes are set, Romney's lead narrows to 19%-15%, within the survey's margin of error of +/— 5 points.

Effectively tied for third place are former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, at 11%, and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, each at 9%.
Also, a new FOX News/Opinion Dynamics Poll (Dec. 18-19, 2007) puts McCain in a statistical tie for first place among nationwide primary voters, with Giuliani, Romney, and McCain taking 20, 19, and 19 percent respectively.

Peter Brown over at The Politico argues that McCain's making a miracle comeback:

For those who believe in miracles, there is the legitimate possibility that John McCain could win the Republican presidential nomination. If so, he'll make Bill Clinton's comeback kid of 1992 look like a piker.

Of course, the Republican senator from Arizona needs a series of events to break his way, but things are moving in that direction.

Even the possibility that he could still win the nomination after being given up for dead by some of his own supporters potentially creates a movie-script scenario.

Remember, McCain entered the 2008 presidential race at the head of the pack.

The smart money said even though his maverick ways had alienated lots of conservative activists, in a party that normally nominated the early leader, McCain was the guy in the right spot at the right time.

But there was significant resistance to him in the grass roots, his early campaign was poorly managed and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani zoomed past in the polls while political insiders were knowingly declaring McCain's candidacy as good as dead.

In addition, he was tarred with being the presidential field's perhaps biggest supporter of an unpopular war in Iraq, and then he signed onto immigration-reform legislation that GOP conservatives considered amnesty - a four-letter word in Republican precincts.

By last summer, McCain's campaign was broke, amid predictions of his withdrawal from the race. Reporters were writing canned campaign obituaries to be ready when he actually pulled the plug.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the funeral. He was able to raise enough money to keep going, and the tide began to turn his way.

Now, that's not to say he has regained his front-runner status - far from it. But his nomination is no longer a pipe dream.

Most of all, the Iraq war has been going better. As one of the best-known supporters of President Bush's surge strategy, McCain's constantly blunt rhetoric that he would rather lose a campaign than lose a war is paying dividends, especially among Republicans.

And, as the campaign has worn on, none of the other candidates has closed the sale. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson and Giuliani have all had their opportunities, but failed to break away from the pack. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is now the hot candidate, but remains an unknown to most voters.

Simply put, none of the other contenders has yet to meet the basic standard that Americans require of a president - that they can feel comfortable with a person in the Oval Office deciding whether to send U.S. troops into harm's way.
Brown might be underestimating McCain's surge. As Romney and Giuliani struggle, and as Huckabee comes under closer scrutiny, voters might decide on McCain - a known quantity, firm in his positions, with demonstrable leadership abilities.

See also the National Review, "Is McCain Back?"