TPM Reader KB
on the Grand Unified Theory of McCain Crappiness (GUTMC -- 'Gutmuck') ...
I don't think it's any great mystery. Two things to keep in mind about McCain. One is that he was built for the New Hampshire primary of small groups, town halls, shaking hands and back-slapping on the media caravan. He simply does not fill the grand stage set-pieces of a general election. It seems to swallow him up. He does not paint in large graceful strokes the way Obama does. He is a pointillist. Second, if you recall the 2000 race, McCain was focused on fighting special interests, pork, and money in politics. National security was not a huge part of that primary conversation. His shtick was radically altered by 9/11, and it makes him a less appealing candidate, less happy-go-lucky, more conventional.
On the other hand, TPM Reader CB
has a more 2008-specific analysis ...
I think that you guys are on the right track with your theory about McCain's poor stumping skills. In this cycle, he's done so much pandering to try to win every interest group that he has lost any sense of conviction in what he believes in, outside of the need to stay in Iraq. That shows in his nervous laughter at his own jokes, his inability to really sell applause lines (and his getting caught off-guard when people applaud at other points), and his general lack of clarity about the terminology and specifics of his own proposals. The best speech I've seen him deliver this term was the one about how life is going to be in the victorious year of 2013, which he delivered with more conviction than he's been able to give to telling us how we're gonna get there.
He's caught in a bind in that he needs to pander to his base to keep them from not showing up, but he also needs to reach out to independents, and the only way to do that is to be as vague as possible and promise as much as he can. That's a tough sell, and the flop sweat is showing.