Monday, January 14, 2008

The GOP May Need McCain

The media buzz over John McCain's comeback continues to grow. Check out John Heilemann's article over at New York Magazine, where he argues that Republicans may in fact need the Arizona Senator's leadership and stature:

The McCain resurrection in New Hampshire was, no question, a remarkable thing to behold. Six months ago, the extent of his meltdown was so severe that he was mired in fourth place in the state behind Mitt Romney, Giuliani, and, yes, even Fred Thompson. But by December, McCain, back to waging a guerrilla campaign, had scrapped his way into the lead. In the days before the primary, the sense of nostalgia was palpable: the Straight Talk Express crisscrossing the snow-banked byways, McCain cracking wise and holding forth, the hack pack huddled around him, lapping up every word. His town-hall meetings were jammed to the rafters, his wit, spontaneity, and candor on vivid display. “You’re still in purgatory,” said one independent voter, who questioned McCain’s devotion to fiscal discipline. “Thank you,” replied McCain. “That’s a step up from where I was last summer”....

The concept of McCain as the candidate of the Republican Establishment may cause some minds to reel, but there are already signs that it may become a reality: On the eve of New Hampshire, 100 alumni of the Reagan administration—including George Shultz, Alexander Haig, and Iran/contra pardonee Robert McFarlane—trumpeted their endorsement of McCain. What makes him attractive to such people despite his transgressions against Republican orthodoxy is crystal clear. As McCain spokesman Steve Schmidt put it bluntly in New Hampshire, “He is the most electable of all Republicans.” Though one Democratic strategist licked his chops when I mentioned the prospect of a McCain-Obama matchup—“It would be the future versus the past, change versus more of the same”—the septuagenarian senator would compete fiercely with his younger rival for independent voters, and would be able to play far more effectively the experience card that Clinton has employed against him. And having been carpet-bombed by Bush in 2000 and Romney this time around, he’d be well prepared to handle the brass-knuckle brawl into which a race against Clinton would surely turn.
Read the whole thing.

Heilemann is clear that McCain's far from wrapping up the nomination - surprisingly, he suggests, things could go down to a final Giuliani-McCain showdown.

A McCain win tomorrow in Michigan ought to confirm all the speculation of McCain as unstoppable frontrunner.
Mitt Romney's doing well in Wolverine State polls, so the suspense may continue for some time.