Steve Schmidt and his colleagues took John McCain further than he had any reasonable right to, given the political climate.
The most popular parlor game in Washington, D.C., these days is the bludgeoning of the McCain campaign. It started with Bill Kristol’s column in The New York Times recently in which he wrote, “It’s time to fire the campaign. What McCain needs to do is junk the whole thing and start over.”
Right. That would have worked out well, I’m sure.
One of the physical laws of politics is that if your campaign wins, you’re a genius. If you lose, you’re an idiot.
I know and have worked with Obama’s lead adviser David Axelrod, and he’s as smart as anyone I’ve worked with in politics and deserves a lot of credit for a well-run campaign. But I know he’d be the first to admit that he just had the good judgment to saddle up on Secretariat.
I also know and have worked with McCain’s guru Steve Schmidt, who is also one of the most talented players in the game. He just saddled up on Seabiscuit. But he’s running against Secretariat. And only one great horse gets to win.
I don’t defend everything the campaign has done. But I also don’t think they had many options, and they tried them all.
Nevertheless, while voters have yet to decide this election, the bloody harpooning of the McCain campaign has begun: “Why didn’t they let McCain be McCain?” “The campaign was all tactics and no strategy.” “The Palin pick was a disaster.” “The message was unfocused and campaign poorly executed.” “Why haven’t they produced ads attacking Jeremiah Wright?” “The campaign isn’t positive enough.” “The campaign isn’t negative enough.”
Of course almost all the shots come from consultants and hacks who didn’t get hired, or were fired by the McCain campaign. Or were part of some past presidential campaign in which they still revel in the glory and clink toasts to one another as if they cured the measles. Many of these people, who profess to “love McCain,” are firing blistering shots at the campaign through the press, which serves only one purpose. And it ain’t to help McCain.
There is a fundamental question we always ask in political polls. Is the country headed in the right direction or off on the wrong track? Whenever the wrong track number is over 50 it spells trouble for the incumbent party. The most recently recorded number is the worst in the history of polling. Only nine percent of respondents think the country is headed in the right direction. I know what you’re thinking. “Who are those nine percent?”
So, by this measure, John McCain should be polling at about nine percent. And yet, Schmidt and company ran a good enough campaign that McCain went into the Republican Convention tied. And came out of it ahead. The only real surprise in this race is that it was ever close.