John McCain's Risk

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

John McCain's Risk

In today's Washington Post, E. J. Dionne hits the nail on the head:
(John) McCain the Maverick fought for campaign finance reform, took global warming seriously, opposed Bush's tax cuts and spoke out against torture.

... McCain's problem is that political parties rarely nominate mavericks, and McCain has decided the only way he'll ever be president is as the Republican nominee. So today he cares very much about what hurts him or helps him in his own party.

The most flagrant sign of this was his February vote to continue Bush's dividend and capital gains tax cuts, which he once eloquently opposed. "It's a big flip-flop," one-time McCain foe Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, told The Washington Times' Donald Lambro, "but I'm happy that he's flopped."

... The prevailing view among McCain's lieutenants -- it's also the conventional political view -- is that since the main obstacle to his nomination in 2008 comes from the right and from Bush partisans, McCain's main task is to appease the right and make nice with Bush .... There will be plenty of time after he's nominated for McCain to don his maverick apparel again for the benefit of moderates and independents.

All terribly logical, but it's a more dangerous strategy than it seems. ... If McCain spends the next two years obviously positioning himself to win Republican primary votes, he will start to look like just another politician. Once lost, a maverick's image is hard to earn back.

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