Insty Talks to Surging McCain

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Dec 17, 2007 1:43 PM


The headlines are all McCain all the time today, what with the Lieberman endorsement, and the media's predilection for the Maverick. I'll say this for the McCain campaign: they come away with an endorsement as unorthodox as their candidate:
"On all the issues, you're never going to do anything about them unless you have a leader who can break through the partisan gridlock," said Lieberman, who was Al Gore's running mate seven years ago. "The status quo in Washington is not working."
A change message from Liebs coupled with a reference to McCain's ol' standby strength:
Lieberman said McCain's approach to Iraq and his credentials on national security are the main reasons he is supporting a Republican for president.
And, a promise that McCain will actually give you what Obama only promises:
"Political party is important, but it's not more important than what's good for the country and it's not more important than friendship," Lieberman said.
McCain's picked up a few more endorsements in New Hampshire, from a chain of weekly newspapers, to add to the Union Leader's nod. But can being the favorite Republican among Democrats and Independents (as he seems to be in Michigan, too) really be enough to get him a Republican nomination?

Fred Barnes still thinks so:

Things large and small in the campaign have been moving McCain's way. The war in Iraq has turned sharply toward victory now that President Bush has adopted the strategy McCain had been recommending for several years. This is McCain's best issue and now a distinct plus for his campaign. And the immigration issue, a poisonous one for McCain, has become less intense since his immigrant-friendly approach lost in the Senate last summer.

Then there's the rise of Mike Huckabee, the ex-Arkansas governor. If he defeats Mitt Romney in Iowa next month--and polls show Huckabee ahead--that will disrupt Romney's early-state strategy and leave him vulnerable in the New Hampshire primary on January 8. To capture the nomination, McCain must win in New Hampshire. McCain, by the way, likes Huckabee and can't stand Romney.

Just as Romney has run into trouble, McCain's other rivals have as well. The campaign of Rudy Giuliani, the ex-New York City mayor, has stalled amid a burst of unfavorable media stories. Former senator Fred Thompson has failed to stir significant support among conservatives, his target group. Still, like Huckabee, Thompson is running hard against Romney in Iowa.

For my part, I've been noticing among conservative acquaintances, a reconsideration of McCain going on that none of them would have considered this summer, when most of us were busy predicting exactly when the Straight Talk Express would break down on the shoulder with not even a AAA membership to rescue it.

My friends don't dislike Romney but he's failed to convince them he's sincere about his policy conversions or that he can win in a general. They dislike Huckabee on fiscal policy and think he'd be a dangerous economic liberal squish and class warrior in the White House. The Fred campaign, which many were hoping would rescue them their doldrums this summer, failed to spark (although things have been looking more lively for him lately). And, the latest Rudy scandal (Judy and the NYPD) seems to have solidified doubts they were willing to overlook about America's Mayor in the face of the Hillary juggernaut.

Who's left? An experienced senator who's potent in a general election if he can get past the primary, and who's great on the war and good on spending. Oh yeah, and whom they've all actively disliked for several years for preening to the press, bringing Campaign Finance Reform upon us, and being wrong on immigration and sometimes snide about it.

Nonetheless, they're considering it. Quite a statement about the immense discontent with the Republican candidates. And, it tells me that if he's being reconsidered among some of my staunchly conservative friends predisposed to actively dislike him, he's got a damn sight more voters reconsidering him in Maverick-friendly New Hampshire in these crucial couple of weeks.

Find out what McCain himself has to say about the long, strange trip it's been, here, as he sits down to talk to the Instapundit and Helen.