By winning the Republican nomination John McCain surprised the pundits who widely believed that the Democrats would settle on their nominee long before the Republicans would. This change of dynamic is unexpectedly good news for McCain and the Republicans.
While the Democrats are busy fighting each other, McCain runs a risk of being old news. He can reverse that by making TV and radio appearances every chance he gets. The uncertainty and the increasingly negative campaigning in the Democratic field also gives the Republicans some breathing room to plan and raise money for the general election.
The voters are likely to suffer from Obama/Clinton fatigue especially if the Democratic race drags on for months. This would make McCain the fresh new thing come November. It is also possible that the Democrats would exhaust some of their donors and enthusiasm among the voters while McCain can get new donors and build support by selling his message to the voters.
The other important factor in favor of McCain is that no matter who the Democratic candidate is, their campaign is likely to be exhausted from the intense primary season. In contrast McCain and his camp have a chance to relax and enjoy the show. It also gives them a chance to know what works against Obama/Clinton without having to work for it.
John McCain's relatively disorganized camp would be easy prey for the Democrats especially since they have intensively campaigned in swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania. His camp should survey the voters in these states and address their concerns effectively. McCain also has a good chance of winning over Hispanics (especially if Obama is the nominee) and he should dedicate himself to that cause. He also has ample time to pick his staff and, more importantly, a running mate that would satisfy the Republican base.
John McCain needs to organize his campaign structure to match that of George W. Bush in 2004. The Bush camp followed basic principles that led them to success, including: stick to message discipline, a healthy mistrust of the press, and a tight, leak-proof organization.
John McCain has a compelling story to tell about his life and career and it's a shame most Americans only know a part of it. His level of courage, compassion, and perseverance is inspirational. He should introduce himself to the American people and his campaign should tell his story every chance they get.
The biggest advantage that McCain has from the Democratic infighting is money. The Democrats will have easily blown millions of dollars attacking each other before the summer ends while McCain can increase his balance to match the Democrats. This is also the biggest use he has for President Bush, whose fundraising abilities are strong as ever.
Sharpen His Message
John McCain has the foreign policy aspect covered but his economic and social messages need to be sharpened and put forth. He should use this time to hire the best economic minds to run that side of his campaign. He will need to have effective answers on the current housing crisis, the social security and medicare fears, the looming recession, and oil prices.
This is also a great opportunity for McCain to win over conservatives. He needs to do all he can to assure conservatives about Supreme Court judges, immigration, and tax cuts. McCain also needs to be careful so as to not get carried away with this pandering. He should do it relatively below the radar and not win over conservatives at the expense of independents and moderates.
Ironically if a few conservatives remain cold to him, it will not hurt him as much as one would think. Rush Limbaugh said a few weeks ago that if he wanted to destroy McCain's chances, he would enthusiastically endorse McCain and that would drive away the moderates and independents. Thus if McCain does not have every conservative on board, he is at a net advantage.
Thanks to the Democrats, John McCain is in a great position to plan, organize, and fund a first rate general election campaign. It remains to be seen if he does.