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McCain’s “time for choosing.” Candidate of the Old Media or of the Republican base? 2/6/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in McCain.
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We have recently come to understand that there are two John McCain’s — the one with a lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union of 82% and the one with a 65% rating in 2006, the most recently tabulated year. His ratings reflect his cyclical and cynical interest in appealing to two incompatible constituencies, the center-left Old Media and the conservative Republican base. Of the two, he owes more to Old Media for the sudden rise in his fortunes, as he made a deal with them years ago. He would criticize members of his own party and advance Democrat agenda items in exchange for more media exposure and more positive coverage than he deserved. And that’s why his other constituents are so angry with him.

But now, McCain must choose between his two constituencies. Should he win the nomination, he must realize that he cannot be the candidate of Old Media, which will root for the Democrat nominee while still claiming to be objective. They will turn on him, and do to him what they have done to all past Republican candidates — caricature him as being stupid, selfish, mean-spirited, old, and/or morally deficient. But, at this late date, it may be difficult for him to get the enthusiastic support he needs from the conservative Republican base, which has been stung by his dalliances with Old Media.

On Thursday, we will learn how willing he is to make peace with the base at the conservative CPAC convention, an event he skipped last year in a move widely seen as a snub. It’s a fine line. Everyone knows that he is no Ronald Reagan, and he will be mocked if he pushes this too hard. Words of remorse for his infidelity seem unlikely to come from an individual with a reputation as an often mean and nasty hot-head with a taste for sticking it to his opponents. Or, he can decide to simply take the side of conservatives and start becoming an evangelist for conservative principles and attacking Democrats and the center-left positions of the media. Ironically, the name that has been given to Reagan’s career-launching, Goldwater-backing speech now describes McCain’s predicament perfectly. It is indeed “A Time for Choosing” for McCain. But it is possible that his time to choose to be faithful to his Republican base passed years ago.

Comments»

1. Fresh Air - 2/6/08

Steve–

I think the key will be to what extent he surrounds himself with people who understand the new media. I think he does, in fact, have quite a few of those people on staff, as he has been highly receptive to interviews with bloggers like the Powerline guys, Capt. Ed, etc.

I agree that the old media will turn on him as soon as Hillary wraps up the nomination. The good news is, however, thanks to the conservative fire already directed at him, is that there won’t be much more critical to say about him.

His womanizing is really ancient news. Maybe he has other skeletons in the closet, but I kind of doubt it.

2. Reuben - 2/7/08

Steve

Once again all your posts demonstrae mastery of your subject. May THEfutureofnews continue to expand its influence via your concise and inspiring analysis.


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