Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Ghost (Not) At The Feast

George W Bush has given a speech to the convention of his Republican party. But he wasn't at the event in Minnesota - instead the President delivered the address by video link from the White House, where he's been working on relief efforts following Hurricane Gustav. Because he was speaking down the line, Mr Bush's speech was cut to just eight minutes.

This was all very convenient for the Republican who hopes to replace him in the Oval Office, John McCain. For him, any association with the most unpopular president of modern times is very damaging. He's trying everything to prove he's different to Mr Bush. That's why just about every on-message Republican can't get through a sentence these days without describing Senator McCain as a 'maverick' who has often gone against the wishes of both Dubya and the Republican party.

This isn't complete nonsense. Bush and McCain hate each other. They really, really hate each other, and have done ever since the Bush campaign team in South Carolina used an extraordinary series of desperate dirty tricks to defeat McCain during their 2000 battle for the Republican nomination. Since then they've often been on opposite sides of various arguments, including when Mr McCain managed to shame the White House into going along with his ban on torturing terror suspects.

Hurricane Gustav's intervention was therefore pretty convenient for the McCain team, as it gave an excuse for President Bush to stay well away from their man. But it's not all good news. For all his unpopularity with the wider public, Mr Bush remains a hero to many within the Republican party itself, including many of those who were in the convention hall last night and greeted his TV appearance with enthusiasm. And for all his failings, Mr Bush is a great campaigner, one of the few public speakers who can match Barack Obama for whipping a crowd into a frenzy. By distancing himself so much from President Bush, John McCain will at best only get lukewarm support from many within his party, and may even see some Republican voters abandon him for a candidate such as the admittedly odd-looking Libertarian Bob Barr (keep an eye on Barr's home state of Georgia, where he is polling at 7% or so, which could be enough to tip it from McCain to Obama). If Senator McCain is going to become President McCain, it's a balancing act he needs to get exactly right.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The math, state by state, is against him. National polls are meaningless - it is the polls in VA, PA, OH, FL, GA, and other battleground states, that matter, and Obama is highly competetive in these areas. He need only take PA, MI, and pick of CO to secure a win. While McCains campaign is on the upswing, his on-the-ground operation is non-existent, and his money woes will catch him sooner rather than later. What ultimately matters is getting folk to the polls - and the current Democratic enthusiasm works heavily in Obama's favor. Bush remains the jobbie in the swimming pool for most americans, and McCain has long since lost the maverick shine. McCain does indeed dislike Bush, as do most americans. If Obama can link the two (as Clinton did with 'Gingrich-Dole') then he is onto a winner. The Gustav thing was a hollow excuse. I lived the terror, my friends, and while it was a nasty affair (power is still out over almost half of Louisiana),it certainly did not require presidential intervention.