He could ac­tu­ally win: McCain can blunt ad­van­tage, Democrats say

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Don­ald Lam­bro

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.

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