It’s bizarre for me being an undecided voter. I’m so used to be confident and outspoken in my opinions. As I missed the debate Wednesday night as I was dining with a friend, I read up about it on Thursday as I was working on my piece for Pajamas.
And I keep reading stuff which pushes me one way or the other. Bloggers at the Corner and on Hugh Hewitt‘s site remind me of McCain’s flaws while others remind me of his strengths. Daniel Henninger commented on his presence on the campaign trail, noting particularly his energy and eloquence on the stump. He can win over an audience. Victor Davis Hanson stands up to the other Corner bloggers and defends McCain’s character and record as he did here.
As I wrestle with voting for John McCain or his rival for the GOP nomination, just as I did eight years ago, the last time I was undecided in a presidential race, I admire those qualities Hanson describes, but also his courage, nay, his heroism, while a prisoner of war in Vietnam. He refused early release because of his concern for his fellow prisoners and he did not want to give enemy a propaganda victory.
And while I admire that aspect of John McCain, I don’t like his pettiness, the way (as I noted here) that he seems to belittle his Republican rivals.
In observing the campaign, I noted something else about John McCain–how, in campaigning style, he is so like one of those rivals, George W. Bush. He seems to take the race for granted when he’s ahead. Note how he began his campaign last year in a lackluster manner. Then, many considered him the frontrunner. After he had blown through his campaign treasury and had to restructure his campaign, it seemed he emerged a new man, feistier, more energetic, focusing more on conservative ideas.
But, now that he has become the frontrunner yet again, he seems to have shown less concern for conservative voters who could still trip him up on his path to the nomination.* Once ahead in the polls, he seems to take the base — and the campaign — for granted.
So too did George W. Bush campaign in 2000 and even ’04. When the then-Texas Governor entered the race as the presumptive frontrunner, he seemed to take his lead for granted, only campaigning with any fervor when McCain beat him first in New Hampshire, then in Michigan. Had Gore not gotten a bounce out of the Democratic convention that year, Bush might not have shown the tenacity he did in the debates that fall.
In 2004, leading Kerry by a substantial margin going into the first debate, he seemed to take the opposite approach in that exchange.
In short, both candidates, Bush and McCain, seem to sit on their leads. I liked the McCain who started to emerge last fall after he restructured his campaign, but since his victory in New Hampshire, the cocky candidate has emerged once more. At least in Wednesday night’s debate.
If McCain locks up the GOP nomination and enters the fall campaign with a substantial lead over Ms. Hillary, I hope he remembers Aesop’s tale of The Tortoise and The Hare. That swift-footed rabbit took his speed for granted and didn’t focus on the race. We know who won that time. And this time, given the stakes, we don’t want to see the tortoise of this tale victorious.
– B. Daniel Blatt (GayPatriotWest@aol.com)
*He does seem to have recognized that he needs to win over those voters, releasing “a television ad touting his commitment to conservative principles.” Should he win, I hope he remembers that ad was key to his success.