In the current issue of National Review, John J. Miller writes that Mark Salter, who has helped John McCain write his books has much writing to do “between now and November,” including the presumptive Republican nominee’s speech accepting the party’s presidential nod at this summer convention in Minnesota. I trust Salter realizes that this is perhaps he important project on his plate.
As that speech is likely to get more media attention than any other scripted address John McCain deliver in the next six months, Salter needs write something which defines the Arizona Republican to the American people and rebuts Democratic attempts to discredit that good man. This speech must reassure an anxious conservative base while convincing independent voters who already have a high opinion of the Senator but are wary of again leasing the White House to a Republican.
To appeal to both groups, McCain can’t break with the Republican who currently lives there, but does need to distance himself from that good man, but flawed president.
In 1988, without repudiating the then-incumbent Republican President George H.W. Bush attempted to distance himself from Ronald Reagan with his reference to “a kinder, gentler America.” Many conservatives (including this one) saw the line as an unwarranted jab at the Gipper, suggesting his America were harsher and meaner, but the tone of the speech helped the then-Vice President bounce back from a deficit in the polls to a lead which he would enjoy until November.
Salter needs craft a similar speech with a passage somehow acknowledging the incumbent’s shortcomings, but, at the same time, showing respect for his accomplishments and appreciation of his national security leadership. McCain needs make it difficult, it not impossible, for the Democrats to present him as promising a third Bush term. Tying McCain to W, they believe, will bring down the Arizonan’s high favorables.
Mark Salter clearly has his work cut out for him. He needs perhaps write a memorable line which would juxtapose McCain’s independence, the numerous times he has parted company with his party, with his commitment to essential Republican principles, notably a strong national defense and decreased federal spending.
Should Salter succeed, he could well help shift the dynamic of the fall campaign in favor of the Republican nominee. Given his wordsmithing skills, there’s a good chance he will.