John McCain’s Problem

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JOHN McCAIN’S PROBLEM….Today’s New York Times poll graphically illustrates the biggest problem John McCain had going into this election. Normally, a Republican would run right in the primary and then tack to the center during the general election. But McCain, who has always been distrusted by the hardcore conservative wing of the party — the social conservatives especially — couldn’t do that. In order to consolidate their support, he had to tack to the right for the general election, most spectacularly with his choice of Sarah Palin as VP.

But this has been disastrous. McCain’s biggest electoral advantage was always his appeal to independents, and as he’s moved to the right independents have abandoned him in droves. In the last month, his favorable rating among independents has gone down 3 points and his unfavorable rating has skyrocketed an astonishing 20 points. In other words, nearly every single independent who didn’t already have an opinion about McCain has decided in the last month that they don’t like him. The New John McCain has been the biggest flop imaginable.

I honestly don’t know what he could have done differently to avoid this. One argument, I suppose, is that conservatives would have ended up voting for him regardless, so he should have ignored them and gone after the independent bloc like a laser. But I’ll bet that wouldn’t have worked either. Conservatives were genuinely uncomfortable with McCain, and if he had aggressively courted the independent vote Rush Limbaugh would have been skinning him alive 24/7 and James Dobson would still be telling his followers to stay home this year.

Was there an answer to this dilemma? I can’t think of one. McCain’s rock this year was very, very hard, and his hard place was very, very rocky. He was just plain screwed.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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