Straight Talk About McCain

Matt Lewis
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Posted: Mar 27, 2007 11:34 AM

Yesterday, when I posted that first humorous McCain video from the bus trip, a few commenters wondered if we were ever going to get to anything substantive.  I hope that the videos we posted today (in honor of the 5 year anniversary of President Bush's signing BCRA), answer that question.  Clearly, McCain was willing to answer tough questions -- and we were more than happy to ask them.

I do have a few thoughts about what this all means ... about what I learned about McCain and the process.

1.  I think we've got to give McCain credit for being accessible to the press.  What is more, I think he deserves credit for treating bloggers the same way he would treat George Will or David Broder.  He truly gets the new media (McCain's blog-outreach guru -- Patrick Hynes -- deserves tremendous credit for this). 

2.  Clearly, John McCain has a strategy of focusing on conservative voters -- not conservative leaders.  The Politico's Jonathan Martin summed it up perfectly on March 12, when he wrote:

What is fascinating, though, about McCain's decision to go his own way on these events is that in some ways it recalls the Bush administration's approach to the media. The principle is the same: Why go through a filter that may put its own spin on things when one can now (almost) go straight to the consumer/voter? McCain's camp knows that, regardless of the senator's lifetime ACU score, they'll not get a fair shake from those "professional conservatives" who loathe both McCain the man and McCain the campaign finance reformer.

So they are taking their candidate straight to the beyond-the-beltway marketplace, banking that his more-consistent record on social issues and ardent support for the President's war policy and re-election will trump conservative suspicisons. It's their conviction -- and I've often said that the entire nomination could rest on this question -- that the disdain for McCain among conservative leaders doesn't trickle down to the grassroots.

3. Yesterday when I wrote that Granite Staters don't care about Campaign Finance Reform (at least the ones who attend town hall meetings, who are presumably the ones who vote in primaries), I was stating an observable fact. (Some commenters took this to mean that I don't think campaign finance reform is important  -- it is).  My real point was that no political analyst can honestly say that: "McCain can't win New Hampshire because of McCain/Feingold."

Yes -- the issue is vitally important, and No -- it won't hurt him in New Hampshire.  It should also be noted that it was President Bush -- not John McCain -- who signed Campaign Finance Reform into law.