There has been much discussion today of McCain’s frontrunner status. Today’s granddaddy article on McCain has to be the NYT’s piece on all the people that he has recruited. It was mostly a list of Washington Insiders. Other stories have pointed out that he has been lining up people in early states also.
RCP also had an article on the changing GOP after 9-11. That new GOP is then used an an explanation for why McCain and Giuiliani are the front-runners.
What is so interesting about McCain being the frontrunner is that conservatives run around saying “It ain’t so” or “It won’t be so”. So how were they doing that? Well, today Matt Lewis (Human Events) said that McCain is fighting the last campaign:
While this is certainly a major coup, there is always the famous lament that every operative always wants to run the last campaign. The point is that sometimes the outsiders are the ones who are the innovators, while the insiders paint-by-numbers. Still, it’s hard to argue with experience and success.
In essence, he is arguing that there will be a sort of deus ex machina. A similar point was made on Redstate several days earlier in a post entitled “We are the New Deciders”, where they tried to give blogs the credit for pullng this off:
… but all of this navelgazing at McCain’s endorsements strikes me as old school.
McCain is in essence fighting the last war, locking up the endorsements he imagines were denied to him last time. But what McCain forgot is that Bush won the hearts and minds of Republican primary voters while he also won their leaders’ endorsements. Bush was able to be successful because the endorsements/fundraisers/”smart money” were in line with the actual wishes of Republican primary voters.
Since 2000, we’ve also seen the growth of a little thing called the blogosphere and YouTube, which will likely alter the playing field dramatically for candidates intent on running the old top-down playbook.
Is the Blogosphere going to make a big difference? Can they outbuzz someone with 100% name ID, great popularity, etc.? Can they pick up on something stupid? Sure. But we aren’t dealing with someone like Allen who just wasn’t read for prime time. So the question is, does McCain have a strategy? And can he actually win?
Our sense is yes.
First, there will be early states. IA, NH, SC, AL, MI, AZ, followed by media. So some guesses on the first states. McCain comes in 2nd in IA, 1st in NH and MI. Probably first in SC. Sure first in AZ. In each of these states (except AL? I just don’t know) McCain has high quality teams on the ground now. The upshot is McCain has a good chance of coming out of these in very good shape.
Second, there will be the money game. To win as Charlie Cook pointed out in his letter to TNR about George Allen, one of the questions is going to be “Can he raise $100m by IA?”. This is because the schedule is going to be very, very compact, as it will be for the Dems. As soon as the early states are over, the campaign will switch to national media. McCain will have the money. His frontrunner status will beget more money. And everyone already knows who he is, saving him time and money on TV. Probably only Romney can compete in the money game from day one. In response to Redstate, it is important to note that the Blogosphere cannot raise this level of money.
Therefore, the real question will be whether McCain will have an opponent after the early states who will be willing and able to fight to the convention — like Reagan did in 1976. That will be the question. And will there be constituencies willing to support that kind of fight. I doubt it.