Was John McCain Truly the Most Electable Republican?
Sometimes you go back to one of your old posts and think to yourself: you know, this post really holds up with the passage of time. (Then there are the ones you’d like to forget about — so you do.)
One post that I think has held up pretty well is one that I wrote on February 4, 2008, while the Republican primary was still going hot and heavy. My post was titled John McCain: The Myth of an Electable Candidate. Responding to a Wall Street Journal piece by Steven G. Calabresi and John O. McGinnis calling John McCain the most electable Republican, I said this:
It’s my view that McCain only seems electable because of his media image, which will collapse once the country actually gets to know him in the general election.
. . . .
Many voters will eventually learn that McCain’s image is nothing like the reality. People who know nothing of McCain except his image are finally going to sit down and watch a debate. At that point, a lot of them are going to say: “Holy crap! That’s the guy I thought I liked?!” The antiwar crowd will finally realize he makes George Bush look like Neville Chamberlain. And everyone will see McCain’s smug condescension, born of a background of elitism and privilege. It will manifest itself in that self-satisfied mockingly contemptuous grin that he can’t hide.
In response to the assertion by Calabresi and McGinnis that the nomination of Mitt Romney could cost Republicans, not only the White House, but the ability to filibuster in the Senate, I said:
It could. But I believe that the nomination of John McCain is far more likely to create the same result.
And here we are, facing recounts that could well put Democrats over the magic number of 60.
My conclusion was simple:
[E]veryone is certain that [McCain] is the most electable Republican, based on what is known now. I believe that is wrong.
Of course, I continue to maintain that any Republican would have lost this election to Hillary or Obama. And there’s no way of knowing whether Romney would have been better than McCain. Maybe he would have been worse.
But I think he would have been better. Romney campaigned on fixing the economy from the get-go; he brought it up in every debate, while McCain kept talking about the war. McCain’s economic policy truly was little more than “Drill, Baby, Drill!” McCain is a guy who got nailed (however unfairly) for saying that the fundamentals of our economy were strong, and openly discussed his relative weakness on economic issues.
I’m not saying that Mitt Romney would have been some kind of savior.
But McCain sure wasn’t, was he?