Matt Lewis

Sen. John McCain’s campaign for president has had a tough go of it in recent weeks. A poor first quarter fundraising performance, sagging poll numbers (an L.A. Times poll showed that McCain had slid to 12% nationally), and a press corps that has turned on him because of his support of the war in Iraq.

So how did the McCain’s campaign power through two horrible weeks of news without imploding? Their method, based on public accounts and my own discussions with key McCain operatives and consultants, could serve as a “How To” guide for other campaigns, which will inevitably face bad weeks themselves as the campaign continues. Here are my thoughts on the lessons learned:

  • Rule #1: Remember, It’s a Long Ball Game. Anyone who has worked on a political campaign knows that losing streaks are inevitable. Heck, even the New York Yankees endure losing streaks – sometimes for weeks. But they always somehow end up at, or near, the top of their division when the playoffs come around. And conversely, in the words of Tom Petty, “even the losers (insert Baltimore Orioles – my team) get lucky sometimes.”

Despite what baseball aficionados (who watch every game – even in March) may think, it really doesn’t matter who is on top in March; what matters is where you are in the standings when the season ends. Politics is similar. Every campaign – even the good ones – have their ups and downs (remember the time George W. Bush couldn’t name several world leaders – and let’s not forget that he lost New Hampshire to John McCain, as well (talk about a bad week) …

The point is that no team is as good as they look when they are winning, and no team is as bad as they look when they are losing. The great coaches and players don’t display emotions; they don’t celebrate too much when they win, and they don’t get too low when they lose.

Seasoned teams know this, and that keeps them from panicking when they hit a losing streak. Led by Brian Jones, the McCain communications team kept a level-head -- even when things were looking especially bad. They still have a long way to go, but when other campaigns might have collapsed – or made fatal gaffes – they stayed calm.


Matt Lewis

Matt Lewis is conservative writer and blogger based in Alexandria, VA.

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