How McCain Survives

Matt Lewis
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Posted: May 22, 2007 9:55 AM

Predictions that McCain's campaign is "over" are, at best, premature, and at worst, wishful thinking.  It's getting to the point where he may need to change his theme song from "I Won't Back Down," to "I Will Survive."

But while conservative bloggers and writers may serve as opinion leaders, they do not necessarily reflect public opinion. Here is one such example ...

A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken last weekend found that 78% of respondents feel people now in the country illegally should be given a chance at citizenship.

Still, it is clear that  McCain is out-of-step with the conservative base.  Frankly, I cannot think of any example in history where a candidate for president has been embroiled (as a Legislator) in such a hot-button issue -- this close to the nomination. The fact that it's McCain's own doing makes me question his political strategy. But it does not make me question his sincerity on the issue.  And that's where McCain must go to turn this thing around.

Back in 2004, George W. Bush's best debate line was: "You may not agree with me, but you know where I stand."

In my estimation, in order to get past this, McCain must adopt a similar position. For McCain to win, the contrast simply must be that with McCain, you at least know what you're getting (and the insinuation is that with the other candidates, it's "buyer beware.") 

This may not be much relief to us on the issue of immigration.  But knowing that McCain will stubbornly stick to his positions may, in fact, be a relief to someone who shares his view on the Life issue ...

Note: I realize it's ironic for a "maverick" to make the consistency argument.  But while it's hard to predict which issues he will initially trumpet, McCain's team can argue that once he supports or opposes something, he usually stays true to it (ethanol is one of the obvious exceptions).

Of course, Walter Mondale tried a similar move in 1984, when he said that both he and Reagan would raise taxes. He argued that he was at least willing to be honest about it.  (We all know how that worked out...) 

Still, McCain's "I won't back down" image is the best contrast McCain has (considering his opponents).

Something else will come along and knock this story off the front pages (two weeks ago, the big story was Rudy's Pro-Life stance).  But (as we've seen time and time again) McCain's maverick image will keep coming back.  That's why, this is McCain's card to play.