He could actually win: McCain can blunt advantage, Democrats say
Democratic strategists say their party’s prospects for winning the White House never looked brighter, but probe further and some say presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain will be tough to beat and has “a real shot to win.”
Democratic adviser Maria Cardona who helped shape her party’s Hispanic-outreach strategy in the 2004 presidential campaign said she thinks Mr. McCain will have strong appeal to the nation’s large Hispanic community — a key Democratic constituency and one that largely went for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton over Sen. Barack Obama in the Democratic primaries.
“There is no question that McCain would be more competitive with Hispanics than any of the other Republican candidates, starting with the fact that he was one of the original authors of the comprehensive immigration-re- form bill, which bears his name with Senator [Edward M.] Kennedy,” said Mrs. Cardona, who backs Mrs. Clinton.
Democratic strategist David Sirota said Mr. McCain’s pro-immigration stance and the fact he has ripped into lobbyists and cam- paign-finance abuses makes him appealing to independents.
“I’m not one of those who believe this will be a runaway election for the Democrats. This could be a very, very close election,” said Mr. Sirota, who helped mount the party rebellion that defeated Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut in the 2006 Democratic primary. Mr. Lieberman went on to run as an independent and win the general election.
With the U.S. fighting an unpopular war, the economy skirting recession, gasoline spiraling toward $4 a gallon and the Re- publican brand badly tarnished, Democrats are favored to win back the White House in November, according to generic partypreference polls.
But when specific candidates are named, Mr. McCain fares much better against his potential Democratic opponents.
Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton draw 46 percent to Mr. McCain’s 45 percent — a statistical dead heat — in Gallup Poll’s daily tracking surveys of registered voters. Gallup said the closeness of the numbers “indicates that the 2008 presidential election could be an- other nail-biter of the sorts seen in 2000 and to a lesser extent, 2004.”
Democrats acknowledge Mr. McCain’s political appeal but doubt that will be enough to overcome the electorate’s antiRepublican mood.
“If the Republicans had nominated anyone other than McCain, the election for all practical purposes would already be over. But not even McCain is appealing enough to buck the tide of popular discontent with the condition and direction of the country,” said William Galston, a senior analyst at the Brookings Institution and a former political strategist at the Democratic Leadership Council.
Mr. McCain’s role in last year’s immigration bill has angered conservative Republicans who saw it as an attempt to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants and contributed to a sharp decline in his support until he distanced himself from the measure.
“Granted, Democrats are going to make sure voters know that he has completely flip-flopped on the issue. Even so, he’s a much more benign figure among Republicans, and that will be a huge challenge for Barack Obama if he becomes the nominee because he has not been able to garner any sizeable support from Hispanics during the primary process,” Mrs. Cardona.