Getting Serious

Yesterday, I wrote the first in what I hope will be a series of posts making the case that a John McCain presidency would be a strategic disaster for the United States. McCain’s record suggests he has little ability to think in terms of America’s strategic goals around the world and focuses instead on near term tactical issues which he usually gets wrong.

Whether it’s going to be possible to make that case — which I think is an extremely strong one — in the context of an election campaign is another question. And whatever else we say about McCain any campaign strategy against McCain has to start with a recognition that he has very low unfavorable ratings for a candidate who’s been in public life for as long as he has. (According to the latest Gallup poll, each candidate’s unfavorable numbers are McCain 27%, Obama 33% and Clinton 44%. Other polls have different reads, but the basic point about McCain’s low negatives is a consistent finding.)

So if the Democrats want to run well against McCain they need to be focusing in on one key political fact. The Iraq War remains very unpopular. Most Americans think it was a mistake and most want to leave.

John McCain meanwhile is in lockstep with President Bush on the issue and wants to continue all his policies, including a decades long occupation of Iraq.

The details beyond these two salient facts are secondary at best. If the Democrats are serious about contesting this election, affiliated groups — and there’s at least one already out there specifically tasked with taking the fight to McCain — need to get on the air making this single point and running it in key states around the country.

Whether that pulls down his numbers in the short-term is an open question in my mind. But the realization of this key fact in the minds of voters is a necessary predicate for a Democratic victory in November.

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