Can McCain Get Back in the Race?

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I think bloggers/journalists/pundits giving campaigns advice is a bad and unproductive little habit, but my posts today about how raising Ayers won’t get McCain back in the race has got me thinking about what will.

Just to be clear, I think McCain going after Obama’s associations is a choice fraught with as much danger for McCain as for Obama. (See the last two posts for why.) So what can McCain do instead? He can paraphrase Bill Clinton and label himself “a new kind of Republican.” He can slam Bush. He can denounce the way the country has been run for the last eight years by a Republican White House and, for the most part, a Republican Congress. In short, he can capitalize on the disastrous condition of the Republican brand, instead of suffering from it.

And he can match this rhetorical move to the center with policies that, in most cases, stay solidly to the right. (In a way, he would mirror Obama.) As a result, he has a good chance of retaining the Republican base and an improved chance of swaying independents. Does this path guarantee victory for McCain? Of course not, but it’s a lot better than his current strategy, which is… what exactly?

And I have to point out that had McCain pursued this strategy from the beginning, it would have been awfully tough for Obama to tie McCain to Bush as successfully as he has. Would it have depressed turnout somewhat among hardcore Republicans? Sure. But look where a half-hearted attempt to play to the base has gotten him so far.

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