Why McCain Won The Week

Matt Lewis
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Posted: Mar 30, 2007 4:38 PM

This was the week John McCain got his groove back.

He made major inroads with conservative opinion leaders and bloggers -- stood up to the Democrats’ “surrender strategy” -- and avoided some potential landmines laid by his opponents.

While many pundits are prematurely predicting the demise of his campaign, McCain is just starting to hit his stride.

How did it happen?  Here’s a quick synopsis of the week ...

This past weekend, McCain held several town hall meetings in New Hampshire.  I flew up to see the campaign first-hand, attend some town hall meetings, and chat with McCain on the Straight Talk Express.  To be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect. What I found was a guy with a pretty good sense of humor about his relationship with the conservative blogosphere ...

... Few candidates allow the unfettered access that McCain actually encourages.  But being accessible to the establishment media is one thing; talking to conservative bloggers is quite another. 

Candidates who would happily do a sit-down with David Broder, might scoff at the idea of having a blogger interview (and film) them. Not so with McCain. 

But, perhaps, the most important reason McCain's team is wise to encourage journalists and bloggers to travel with him to places like New Hampshire, is that it's a chance to see what conservative voters outside the Beltway really care about ...

The above interview (along with several others we conducted) made it clear that the issues which have plagued McCain among conservative pundits and "insiders" have not resonated with the voters in states like New Hampshire. 

But let's be honest; Opinion leaders do matter.  That's why McCain was smart to host a conference call for over a dozen top conservative bloggers early in the week (this outreach seems to be a strategic change, which I believe has a lot to do with McCain's good week, this week). 

He also appeared on several conservative talk radio shows, including: Bill Bennett, Michael Medved, and Laura Ingraham. 

But while reaching out to conservative opinion leaders is good, nothing ingratiates you to conservatives more than attacking liberals. 

On Wednesday, McCain launched a petition stating that “the supplemental appropriations bill that passed the Senate on March 27, calling for a date certain withdrawal from Iraq, is nothing more than a guaranteed date of surrender.”

He also had words with Hillary Clinton over an amendment she wanted to tack onto emergency funding for Iraq and Afghanistan. McCain has long been an anti-pork proponent crusader, and in fact, during my time with him on the bus, he discussed how Ronald Reagan would be very upset at Republicans because of spending:

The momentum he gained this week also served to eclipse the 5-year anniversary of President Bush’s signing campaign finance reform.

Sure, Rudy closed the week strong by securing the endorsement of Steve Forbes, but as NRO’s Kathryn Jean Lopez  wrote: “This week may go to McCain.”

But the real reason it was McCain's week is that he's the only one who can be happy about this graph