The McCain Staff Mutiny

Aides are departing John McCain’s struggling presidential campaign. For a while I believed McCain would be the eventual nominee on a last-man standing theory: Rudy would lose because he’s pro-choice, and Mitt would lose because he’s Mormon. But that seems to have been stupid of me.

(Who the hell can the Republicans actually nominate? I have no idea as they all seem terribly flawed. A Giuliani-Romney primary showdown will be too hilarious.)

Iraq is obviously a disaster and that has hurt McCain terribly (nice of the aides to depart today just in time to steal McCain’s thunder for his big Iraq speech from the Senate floor). I find the theory that Bush called McCain’s bluff on saying we needed the 20,000 additional troops rather interesting. This one was floating around the internets a while back, and I think I remember reading about it on Daily Kos. In any case, the idea is that McCain was calling for more troops last year in the expectation that the administration wouldn’t actually do that that and instead would go along with the Iraq Study Group. Then when Iraq inevitably continued to be a hellhole, McCain could blame others for not putting in the troops he said were necessary to fix things. He could use that criticism to springboard his campaign and set himself up rather well for the primaries — a Who Lost Iraq? strategy, if you will.

McCain hugs Bush

Of course, Bush called McCain’s bluff, the surge isn’t working out, and McCain’s campaign is being dragged down by the whole thing.

There’s also immigration, the political ramifications of which I probably haven’t adequately considered all along. The Republican base really, really hates them some illegal Mexicans. It’s the kind of thing northeastern liberals like me might never fully grasp, much like I can’t understand why red state people are so damn protective of their gun ownership rights.

Anyway, I started writing this post intending to conclude that my prediction — oft-repeated to family and friends in the last year or so — that McCain would be the Republican nominee looks pretty wrong right now. I’ve been in denial about this for a little while, often invoking the Kerry campaign’s back-from-the-dead nature in 2004; remember that Kerry fired his campaign manager in November 2003 . Hell, Howard Dean was looking strong for a time, so figuring out how things will happen this far in advance isn’t an exact science. And who knows, with Rick Davis back as campaign manager maybe McCain can rekindle some of his 2000 momentum yet. As long as he can scrape by financially, McCain may yet come out of this because, as I said, the GOP field doesn’t have a clear winner in it.

So I guess I will stubbornly cling to those previous claims, albeit with less certainty.

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