Thursday February 24, 2000

Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday February 24, 2000

Like his namesake, McCain fights back

Say what you will about the American primaries — and there is a lot not to like — no one can dispute that the all-out brawl for the Republican nomination is the most fascinating political contest in years, probably since the 1952 Republican nomination battle between Dwight Eisenhower and Robert Taft.

Like the Hollywood legend whose name he bears, Senator John Wayne McCain proved again this week that Governor George W. Bush can beat him up with the political equivalent of bar room stools and gun butts, but McCain will get back up and throw another punch.

McCain’s most recent blow landed solidly. His success in Michigan and Arizona confirm that the fight for the Republican nomination is far from over. As importantly, it is further evidence that McCain’s anti-establishment rhetoric and promises to cleanse politics reson ate clearly with a cynical American electorate. McCain’s candidacy can never again be considered a fluke, especially considering that in Michigan he had the entire state Republican machine working against him. State Governor John Engler endorsed George W. Bush, as had other state officials, and Bush also had the continuing support of pro-life and Christian conservative organizations. That all this armament couldn’t even buy him a draw is terrible news for his campaign.

The challenge for the Bush campaign is formidable. The Bush strategy of portraying McCain as an unacceptable centrist is backfiring in that, by default, it portrays Bush as an inflexible conservative. Bush must also demonstrate, quickly, that he can win a battle on his own, without the support of local Republican bosses.

McCain’s challenge is much different, but no less daunting. He has succeeded so far due to his his disarming sincerity, but the closer he gets to all important Super Tuesday on March 7, the more his affable lack of certainty may hurt rather than help. If he evolves too much into a more traditional political model, he risks losing the appeal that has fired his success among moderate Republicans and disaffected Democrats. But unless he moves some distance, McCain will remain anathema to traditional Republicans, and probably won’t last much beyond Super Tuesday. (Hamilton Spectator Editorial, A12, 2/24/2000)

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