Why is McCain running such a bad campaign?

McCain should be up by 10 points in the polls by now. Obama’s flip-flops on key issues like the war and taxes are well-documented. Obama claims that he will lower taxes yet raise spending :confused: . He has been tied to many back-room deals in Chicago. Obama loves the bailout plan that Americans hate - yeah, McCain voted for it too but at least he ACTS cynical about it.

In short, Obama is as slick as Slick Willie ever was and he could go home and do nothing and McCain will hand deliver the Presidency to him simply by looking like an idiot.

But instead of going down swinging, McCain is wandering around the campaign trail like an outpatient. Palin is trying her best, but she is woefully out of her league. A lot is made about McCain voting 90% with Bush Jnr. Gee, doesn’t that mean that 10% of the time he bucked the leader of his party? Obama voted 96% Democrat - how come McCain isn’t tying the “Pelosi Presidency” meme on Obama? I mean true or not - this is fucking politics. DO SOMETHING!!!

Who’s to blame? Is McCain micromanaging the campaign? Are his advisors really this clueless? Has McCain (accurately) guaged the half-life of Americans’ memory at one week and expect him to strart pulling out the “Willie Horton” strategy any time now? Or his this a recreation of Bob Dole’s “I always run. Ooops, I got nominated.” campaign?

This i can explain. It has nothing to do with “voting with your party”, it has everything to do with “voting with Bush”. Obama voting with his party is a plus when the other party has fucked up everything so badly.

It’s a riddle wrapped up in an enigma. I don’t think we’ll ever know how things went so horribly wrong for John. Perhaps time has simply moved on for the Gunslinger and his party. :wink:

My point is that if he’s being accused of voting 90% of the time with an unpopular president, then why isn’t he running aroung talking about the other 10%. Make Obama look like a party crony by linking him to an unpopular SOTH and tell the American public “I voted ninty percent of the time with Bush but Senator Obama voted ninty-SIX persent of the time with Representative Pelosi.” Do something to respond instead of “Senator Obama wants more spending.” for the 300th time this week.

Here’s my wild speculation:
It’s a combination of factors

  1. Obama had a long, protracted battle for the Democratic nomination, which ultimately helped him, for a couple of reasons.
    One, he became well known to mainstream America, who has already heard all of the dirt that McCain is trying to dig up; it’s simply not shocking to hear about things like William Ayers when Hillary Clinton was complaining about it a year ago.

And two, the primary allowed Obama to establish a widespread, grassroots organization that was well primed for voter registration drives, collecting donations, and otherwise promoting the candidate well before McCain was even nominated. In short, Obama was up and running before McCain could even get started, and this has helped him to get a lot more money for his campaign than McCain.

  1. It’s the economy, stupid. Historically, the public turns to the Democrats when the economy tanks, and they turn to the GOP when national security is on everybody’s mind. In 2004, a lot of voters turned to Bush because they thought he’d keep them safe from “evil”. Now, as the economy tanks, those same people are turning to the Democrats to keep them safe from poverty. [I should add that I think both mentalities are simplistic and naive, but I also think this is how many people make their voting decisions]

  2. Palin backfired. Sure, nominating Palin mollify a lot of the base, who doubted McCain’s sincerity with regard to the values of the religious right. But, she has also been a disaster in the public’s eye.

As I had said when she was nominated, with only a couple of months to establish her public persona, she was invariably going to be painted with a broad brush and become some sort of cariacture in the public’s mind.

The GOP hoped that the persona would be tough, straight talking, every-mom (reminiscent of the success GWBush had when he appeared on the scene 8 years ago). But, that didn’t stick. Instead, she’s largely been painted as a moron (thanks, Tina Fey) or, at the least, woefully unqualified for the position. This has not reflected well on McCain’s judgment.

  1. Bush is really unpopular. Sure, you mentioned that McCain bucked his party’s leader 10% of the time. But, he has to take great strides to distance himself from the performance of the government in the last 8 years, even going so far as to acknowledge that mistakes have been made and times aren’t at their best. He’s tried to counteract these failures by claiming he is a “maverick” who would be different, but it doesn’t change the fact that his party is floundering, or that he is being hurt by not benefiting from the high profile efforts of a successful incumbent president in his corner (Al Gore had a similar problem in 2000; although Clinton was popular at that moment, Gore surely suffered from the need to distance himself from the Clinton legacy, what with its dick sucking and all - it’s damn hard to run against your own legacy).

I really think that, in order for the American people to elect a black man as President, it requires a perfect storm of factors. And I think that those factors exist today - an unsuccessful incumbency, a bad economy, a lackluster opponent, and a smart, polished, well run campaign. Time will tell whether these ingredients result in an Obama presidency, but it certainly does give him a realistic chance.

Uh, no.

What flip-flops?

Every politician claims that, including McCain.

Cite that he “loves” it?

As mentioned, voting 90% of the time with very nearly the most unpopular president ever isn’t a terribly successful strategy.

Economic conditions, his complete cluelessness on economics, his inability to understand what ordinary people want (lowering capital gains tax now? so, so stupid), and his foolish base being unable to accept that people just won’t vote for someone who is just like them.

Obama plans to lower taxes, but not for everyone. If you make over a quarter-million dollars your taxes will go up. He does plan to increase spending on the programs he campaigning on, but has said that he plans to cut funding for other programs. He says that there will be a net decrease in spending, all things considered. He also says he wants to spend a little money now for a greater benefit later. (This may be lost on many Americans, as we want instant gratification and tend not to understand the concept of investing for the future.)

I think McCain’s problem is that he’s out of touch with Americans. He offers ‘solutions’ that don’t make sense (e.g., $5,000 tax credit to pay for a $25,000 insurance premium and then taxing employer contributions as income). And he’s playing to the American Taliban (the Religious Right), who make a lot of noise but do not represent the majority of Americans. He’s a decade behind the times and too hidebound to adjust to the new reality.

I came into this race honestly not knowing whether I would vote for McCain or Obama. I now have an Obama sign in my yard.

The biggest mistake McCain made was to throw away the persona he had built through decades of service in favor of what he thought people wanted to hear. He doesn’t just pretend to be a maverick, he really was one at times. He had tremendous appeal as one of the few politicians who occassionally was unafraid of being blunt and unafraid to tell Americans they had to make difficult choices. His choice of Palin was transparently a choice of his campaign machinery, calculated to offset his lack of appeal to his base. He was asked a key question in both debates about what we may have to sacrifice in order to deal with the financial crisis. He didn’t answer either time.

I was drawn to a guy who I didn’t agree with much of the time, but who didn’t promise endless spending with tax cuts on the side. I would have made my appeal to the center and assumed that the base would have to hold their noses and voted for me whether they liked it or not.

I’ll try rephrasing the OP again since I still don’t see the answer to my question.

Yes, there are a lot of factor as to why Obama is ahead and may win. There are at least 30 threads on the Dope at any time discussing how Obama is the Messiah and McCain is a Buss II clone with Alzheimer’s. Blah, blah, blah.

My question was why has McCain’s campaign been so mishandled. Karl Rove is the master of dirty campaigns and he hate McCain, but no one else cam make Obama look bad? I mean as an Illinois state rep some years back, Obama said something like he would make the same decisions Bush did about Iraq :eek:. Assuming it’s true (I heard it on talkradio and they were referring to a article they had quoted a few days back), then why isn’t John shouting that from the rooftops? Why didn’t McCain play a gambit and come out against the bailout plan? It’s populist and now everything bad in the economy from here on out (like the stock market decline), you can blame on the Obama supported bailout plan. Plus you reclaim the Maverick title and counter the 90% Bush votes by voting against the President on this huge bill.

So the question is NOT why is Obama winning (we all know why), but rather why is McCain’s campaign so bad?

BTW: the two posts made while I was writing this are more of what I am looking for, but they still answer the WHAT and not the WHY. Are advisors making the decisions or is McCain?

McCain is running like it is 1980. I don’t know why exactly, but his message isn’t tailored for the current times.

He also doesn’t have a clear message. Ask any Obama supporter why they are voting for Obama and you will almost always hear “change”. McCain has nothing to counter that. He had a message briefly during his convention, where he and Palin set themselves up to be Mavericks that would challenge their own party. Though they could not hold on to that. Palin’s interviews and the Wall Street crisis pretty much overshadowed their message. McCain ended up looking like a fool with the bailout plan, and on top of that, he let it pass with earmarks.

If there was no Wall Street crisis to remind everyone how similar McCain’s economic policies are to Bush’s (e.i. he really won’t change things), or that McCain doesn’t know a lot about the economy, the guy might have pulled it off. If he kept reminding people how he challenged his own party, people might have believed that they could have change without electing a risky and inexperienced politician.

My crazy personal theory is that the Reps WANT to lose so that they don’t have to clean up the mess they are leaving and they also get to point fingers and carp for the next 4 years–and they are very, very good at that.
I am :dubious: about your “facts” about Obama.

One last thing: McCain to me looks increasingly tired and petulant. I think he just wants this to be over.

This is the sort of the answer I am looking for. Thanks. As for the “facts”, it doesn’t really matter how true they are does it? As long as there is an element of truth (and I’m sure there are), it’s not outright lying - and both sides have shown that they are willing to stretch the truth. Find me one clip of Obama supporting the war (I’m sure it’s out there) and I can make a commercial showing him to be a hypocrite. Why isn’t the McCain campaign doing it?

I think the answer can be found in looking to the primaries.

Obama’s were hard-fought, to say the least. He had to really work to outflank and then finally take down Clinton. He really needed to build a strong and smart political machine to do it. When he finally had the party’s support, he was simply able to augment what he had already built.

McCain, otoh, pretty much won his by default. All of his competition was pretty clearly flawed, and in the end he simply won out by being the best and most famous of a bad bunch. Without much of a struggle, either, comparatively speaking. His primary campaign was infamously pretty weak, so when the time came to start going against Obama in earnest, he needed to party’s machine to do it. And unlike with Obama, instead of his campaign taking over the party, the party took over his campaign. While McCain is ultimately a willing participant in his campaign, I get the feeling that he’s neither the driving force behind it nor entirely comfortable with how it’s going. This friction results in a campaign that’s not as effective as either a pure Rovian nor McCain’s campaign would have been.

That, and the economy tanked, and everyone blames some combination of Bush and rich wall street bankers, and that’s really bad news for any Republican. There’s no digging out of that hole.

I don’t think you’ll be able to get a true answer to your question unless some insider from the McCain campaign is posting here. We simply don’t know why McCain is choosing to hammer some points, while ignoring others.

Maybe the talk radio story wasn’t accurate (sorry, but that’s not often a good source for reliable information), so McCain isn’t going to cite it lest he look like a fool. Maybe it is accurate, but there are positions that McCain has taken that he doesn’t want to be accountable for (McCain has said many things about the Iraq war over the years that don’t hold up well, and he may not want to delve into those old soundbites).

I think he had to vote in favor of the bailout, because he did play a gambit when he said he’d suspend his campaign to come up with a solution to this latest economic crisis. That ulitmately seemed weak, since he didn’t actually get anything done and didn’t really suspend his campaign. If he further voted against the bailout, he exposes himself to further charges that he is inept on the economy, which (as I said upthread) is probably the biggest issue in this campaign. In this case, it was more politically expedient to do something then to hold your ground, even if the something that was done wasn’t necessarily worthwhile.

I would love to get an insider scoop on the relationship between McCain and Karl Rove. Is it really true that Rove hates McCain? Rove strikes me as someone who wants to win at all costs, so any of his dirty tricks against McCain in the past were just based on that strategy; it wasn’t personal, it was just politics. Given his success rate, though, why wouldn’t McCain have wanted Rove on his team? If McCain thinks he would have been a better President then Bush, but Bush won anyway, then why wouldn’t he co-opt Bush’s winning formula for his own successful campaign? For Bush, the key ingredient was Rove.

Ultimately, though, I think the results of a Presidential campaign have to do with larger factors then the individual candidate. Extrinsic events (like wars or economic troubles) are overriding factors, as are public memes about trivial soundbites or encounters (I really do think Tina Fey’s harsh parody’s of Palin have helped cement Palin’s reputation as being unqualified). We don’t have access to McCain’s inner circle, so we are left with analysis of what we can observe. In this case, I think those observations are telling.

McCain’s campaign isn’t that bad. The events that lead to his fall were a little out of his control. I don’t think you can hold the campaign managers responsible for not predicting the Wall Street meltdown.

I actually thought that the McCain campaign was doing pretty good considering that it had no issues to run on. He actually had people convinced that he wouldn’t ruin the country with Republican policies if he was elected. That is pretty remarkable feat considering the current approval rating of the President. He just couldn’t hold it together through the crisis. It was absolutely the worst thing that could have happened to McCain. An economic crisis that finally made people doubt that government should not regulate businesses.

I realize that “erratic” is a buzz-word that the Dems are trying to stick on the McCain campaign, but I think it does describe what went wrong. He started out as the “experience” candidate, and I think that if he’d stuck to that he would be, if not winning, at least closer to tied now. It defined the campaign in terms of something that made him look good and Obama bad.

Rather then keep to that plan, though, McCain seemed to panic and tried a bunch of increasingly desperate a “hail Mary” strategies, in the desperate hope that something would catch. And I think its pretty clear that none of these strategies were very well thought out. Palin was touted as a fellow foe of corruption and pork, but it quickly became evident that this line didn’t actually match her history very well, and her own lack of experience made McCain’s previous message of the importance of experience look disingenuous. Then he “suspended” his campaign and tried to sell himself as the great bi-partisan negotiator. Except when the bailout plan fell apart due to its unpopularity with the public, he didn’t really have a plan B, and had to look once again like a fool by showing up at the debate.

Finally, the McCain campaign decided they’d go negative, but the boat on painting Obama as a flipflopping communist Muslim sailed a long time ago. Had they started this back before the conventions, they might’ve had a chance, but most of the public has already decided what they think of Obama, and have since turned their attention to the worlds economic woes, making McCain’s attacks look transparent.

Bush had a (ridiculously false) story about himself, and one about Gore/Kerry. And he had well thought out strategies to spread these stories, and he’d hammer away at them for months before the election, until a sizable chunk of the electorate belived them, and even those that didn’t would still use them to talk about the campaign. McCain, OTOH, didn’t know what to do when he was a few points behind, and decided to ditch a well thought out and consistent message for a gimmick of the week.

I think the bad campaign mess is the result of “Too many cooks spoiling the broth”

IMHO the problem was that to become the leader in the current GOP, the would be leader has to show that in reality he will not be one, but a follower of others.

The well to do and corporations needed to get a piece of the action.
The problem: more of them do not agree with the ideas of the religious right and now are in favor of virtually socialistic measures to keep the economy going.

McCain also has his neocons telling him what to do:

(BTW, Scheunemann was also a registered lobbyist for the Republic of Georgia.)

The problem for the Neocons: most Americans are still in favor of ending the Iraq occupation and they are not too hot for more military adventures from a group that made the colossal Iraqi blunder.
McCain had also to appease the conservative religious right.


The problem: not all Republicans are like Creationist Barby.* There are conservatives that still have a mind of their own and recognized that Palin was not a good choice from the beginning and are appalled lately by the rhetoric being used to virtually call Obama a terrorist and the “quality” of the base they are feeding that rhetoric to.

So, McCain has to make too many factions in his party happy and he is letting them control his campaign, I think McCain is like a prisoner now that has to confront his supporters and his managers, but his contradictory efforts (telling his supporters in the rallies to take the rhetoric down while at the same time condemning the people criticizing the same supporters) only shows to me a rudderless campaign.

  • IMHO, In a message board that is for fighting against ignorance, the unscientific positions of Palin remain “the big elephant in the room” when discussing the McCain choice for VP in the SDMB.

I don’t really know what you expect to hear, here. In the end, McCain is signing off to some extent. He has to, he’s the leader of the campaign.

Now, I read in Rolling Stone ( I realize it’s biased, but just hear me out ) that Rove might just be having a greater influence in the campaign than appears. It’s the latest Matt Taibbi article if you’re interested. I think that in tough economic times, these tactics are backfiring.

Why didn’t McCain come out against the bailout? It’s obviously because he thought the best position was to be for it. From what I remember of the polls at the time it was equally split between support / don’t support / don’t know. What that means to me is that there’s really no good position. Once he saw the bill would pass he tried to swoop in and take credit so he could be in a better position on the economy. It was a huge failure on his part, I believe, as his “campaign suspension” was pretty clearly seen as a farce.

McCain could have gone against Obama and such but now it’s far too late. What McCain’s problem was is that he went too Rovian this summer. Remember the stupid Paris Hilton ad? That was a bare attempt to try to paint Obama as the “other.” The Republicans felt that they’d get more mileage out of painting Obama as a terrorist or as an elitist rather than finding contradictions in his record.

I think you’re mis-remembering about the bailout bill. Obama didn’t really play a huge part in it (Neither did McCain for that matter…) It was this thing that came from President Bush and the public was divided. Bucking Bush’s bill for no particular reason at all would have been worse. Maybe if he had some kind of alternative he could have put forward, then yes. But that was McCain’s problem in general. He was late to the whole thing. He couldn’t come up with an alternative because he didn’t get there fast enough. It was already coming together when he got to DC.

If you really want to know why McCain is making so many bad choices I can tell you. His choices had been fine up until he started losing, right? You have no idea how anything will play until you try it out. McCain was pretty successful until the market went down the tubes. An Obama victory was far from assured. The problem is that all of a winner’s tactics are good ones. When you start losing people start asking questions. McCain was blindsided by this mess and has little room. He’s stuck between his rabid base, the economic conservatives who loathe the former, and the current President to whom he is linked. That’s a much tougher job than appealing to a unified Democratic party. You complain that he’s not hitting hard enough on character issues, when others complain that he’s got zero economic policy out there. That’s the Republicans. If I were Republican, I’d be pulling my hair out about McCain’s complete stupidity to go personal. He’s completely ceded the economy and it has even leaked that he’s said as much!

I don’t think McCain didn’t really want to win. What I think happened was that McCain really wanted for it to be him and Joe Lieberman and rule from the center. I think he probably had some true reformer ideals that he wanted to implement (giving the benefit of the doubt). But he decided at some point to let the Rovian thugs in and make it personal and take cheap shots on Obama. At some point he must have said, “Do whatever you have to do to get me elected, and I’ll sign off.” That got him Palin. But this is not 2004 or 2000. The economic crisis was long-coming and he refused to take any shot at being economically competent. He should have done that. Ever second he or his surrogates have their mouths open talking about Ayers is another missed opportunity to talk about the economy and raise his economic XP a little (role playing dork term). He’s consistently avoided talking about the economy. It doesn’t matter that he didn’t do much about it in the Senate, the undecideds aren’t that smart. What was the most ludicrous to me was that last weekend he announced his intention to make the election about “Barack Obama and his Associations.” When the DOW sheds 7 percent a day, you can’t win doing that.

He has to come up with some economic alternative to Obama and Bush’s past 8 years and do it in a way that doesn’t appear to be another gimmick.

So the answer to your question is that he miscalculated. He simply didn’t have the foresight to see the economy being the big issue. Either that, or he thought Rovian smears could somehow trump the pocketbook. The answer to that is a resounding no, as I’ve seen reports of even racists begrudgingly wanting to support Obama because of their economic fears.

Why? Are you one of those who believed in the myth of the “permanent majority”? Politics go in cycles, and it’s the Republicans turn in the barrel.

Another long-range factor: Once McCain had secured the presumptive nominee mantle in the spring, he coasted. Rather than setting to work building a state-by-state organization to do the grunt work of GOTV organization, rather than defining a campaign theme and hitting the hustings hard to sell it, he puttered along in first gear at a lackadaisical pace. He didn’t really seem to ratchet up the campaign’s efforts till summer was waning. That’s a helluva lot of lost ground to make up, a helluva lot of missed opportunities.

I have to wonder whether McCain dawdled so damagingly because he greatly underestimated Obama and his campaign’s strengths. I get the feeling that McCain finds it hard to believe that some wet behind the ears first-term Senator could possibly be taking him to the woodshed.