While I was enjoying coffee at the Mayneview, I read the cover story of the Washington Post Magazine on John McCain. The article wasted more ink on the question of whether McCain is cozying up to Bush, whether it is genuine, whether McCain really is conservative (really? amazing what you see when you check out a lifetime voting record), blah, blah, blah …
The article points out that campaigning is starting early:
DON’T LOOK NOW, but 26 months before November 2008 the race for president has already started. McCain and his potential rivals are out on the campaign trail virtually every week. They are raising money and support for federal and state candidates in the 2006 election. But they are also collecting chits, building name recognition and garnering backers for the presidential campaign to come.
“Teddy White must be turning over in his grave,” says John Weaver, McCain’s chief campaign strategist, referring to the late author of The Making of the President books. “I can’t believe we’re doing this so early.”
I agree about Teddy White’s great books, btw. What I find interesting is that people aren’t talking so much about the scope of the work that McCain (and Rudy) is doing for the party in this pre-primary in 2006. Later on the article points out:
McCain has already raised $6 million and donated $1.2 million to Republican candidates, says Davis, twice as much as any other Republican. Staff members know they won’t be working on a shoestring in 2008.
Indeed, an article in an Ohio paper last week during McCain’s trip there to help Senator DeWine keep his seat (and the Senate in GOP hands) pointed out just how important his work is for the party:
Sen. John McCain is a rare breed in the 2006 political season: a Republican officeholder with whom other Republicans want to be seen. Though he’s a conservative who staunchly supports the war in Iraq, McCain is best known across the country as the guy who’s been a thorn in the side of George W. Bush since the 2000 presidential primaries.
Again, Rudy has a similar quality. The upshot is that this step of the presidential race is really a tryout for being the leader of the party. This is what a president, a governor, legislative leader, etc. does. McCain is acting as a de facto party leader. (in more than one way. When did he last lose a fight in the Senate?) This is an important difference from the Bush strategy. And this difference doesn’t just result in a McCain organization but a stronger GOP. This is something that some people on the right just don’t get. Take, for example, statements about McCain going 3rd party.
A campaign, especially a presidential campaign, is about building supporters and a structure. That is what McCain is up to. That is a new thing. And he is not just “fighting the last campaign.”