Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

December 28, 2007

MCCAIN'S 'SECRET ANTI-ROMNEY AD'....With the polls narrowing in New Hampshire, Mitt Romney's campaign has launched a negative TV ad against John McCain, noting the senator's votes against Bush's tax cuts, against a repeal of the estate tax, and for an immigration-reform bill the GOP's far-right base condemns as "amnesty." The commercial says McCain is "an honorable man," but asks, "Is he the right Republican for the future?"

Slate's John Dickerson obtained a McCain ad -- ironically, created by media advisors who quit McCain's campaign to join with Romney -- that Dickerson calls "the perfect counterpunch" to Romney's latest spot. (Apparently, the McCain campaign put the ad together six months ago, but sat on it, allegedly "reluctant" to go negative.)

The McCain team's response is that Romney has to talk about the future because he's spent much of the campaign running from his past. This may become more than a quip if the campaign decides to air the following television ad, which they've had on the shelf since the spring.

The ad hangs Romney with his own words -- he advocates for a woman's right to choose and gun control, gets tongue tied on his own hunting practices, and distances himself from Ronald Reagan).

You can see the "secret" ad here, which hits Romney for having been a moderate-to-liberal Republican on culture-war issues. Dickerson sees this as the kind of ad that could seriously undermine Romney's campaign. I don't see it that way at all.

Here's the thing: everyone, including Republican voters, knows all about Romney's previous beliefs. He's spent the entire year assuring conservatives, or at least trying to, that he bears no resemblance to his former self. To hear his pitch, Romney is a convert to the conservative cause. (Whether one believes his transformation is sincere or not is another matter entirely.)

McCain, however, has a record that a lot of Republican activists may not remember, and unlike Romney, he hasn't been peppered with questions about his Republican apostasy throughout 2007. Romney's ad hits McCain on taxes and immigration, but he also championed sweeping campaign-finance reform with Russ Feingold that conservatives generally hate, joined with John Edwards to support a Patients' Bill of Rights that conservatives generally hate, voted against an anti-gay constitutional amendment that conservatives generally love, and told a national television audience in 2004 that he would consider joining the Democratic ticket as John Kerry's running mate.

Indeed, in April 2004, just as the national Republican campaign was beginning in earnest, McCain said, "I believe my party has gone astray.... I think the Democratic Party is a fine party, and I have no problems with it, in their views and their philosophy."

Everyone knows Romney was pro-choice; does everyone know McCain said this? I kind of doubt it.

Dickerson argues that McCain has the "perfect" response to Romney's criticism of his record. But unless McCain is prepared to do what Romney has done -- disavow everything he used to believe -- McCain has far more to lose from this fight.

Steve Benen 5:52 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (12)

Bookmark and Share

But unless McCain is prepared to do what Romney has done -- disavow everything he used to believe -- McCain has far more to lose from this fight.

Perhaps. But one important distinction is that Romney is a relative newcomer to the national scene and his public image is still up for grabs. It will be a lot easier for opponents to drive up Romney's negatives than for Romney to drive up McCain's (who has already been vilified to extremes by various segments within the Republican party, such as the neo-cons, money-cons, and theo-cons).

Also, not all of the issues above are created equal. Being pro-choice is all but a disqualifying position for a Republican candidate. Changing sides helps, but at best leaves Romney labeled as a "flip-flopper", at worst an insincere closet liberal.

And while McCain's votes on issues like taxes, campaign finance reform or the Patients' Bill of Rights might offend money-cons, your average voter is more likely to support them (or at least not be toxically opposed to them).

While voters are likely less forgiving on issues like immigration reform or gay marriage, McCain's rhetoric has been both consistent and conservative. He's slightly right on immigration (generally demands progress but avoids racist alarmism) and very conservative on gay marriage (he opposes it).

If Romney wants to get into nuanced arguments about why McCain voted up or down on a given bill, good luck to him. It worked for the Wyly brothers against McCain in New York in part because Bush didn't have much of a political history (yet alone a liberal political history) to punch back at. Romney does. And if the fight is "who is more conservative", Romney will lose: McCain's conservative credentials (as evidenced by decades of votes) is far more consistent and conservative than Romney's.

Posted by: Augustus on December 28, 2007 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK

There isn't going to be enough popcorn in the whole WORLD for this year's race.

McCain is unelectable. The "maverick" of 2000 is now the ass-kisser of 2008. The man simply has an insatiable appetite for ass. Bush, the fundies, the very people who smeared him in South Carolina all those years ago, you name it. Smack smack, yum yum.

Posted by: jprichva on December 28, 2007 at 7:32 PM | PERMALINK

McCain hasn't been peppered about his conservative bona fides because he doesn't have any.

Posted by: jpe on December 28, 2007 at 7:49 PM | PERMALINK

I agree that this is nothing new, everybody already knows this about Romney. The kind of ad you suggest about McCain really would be devastating though. Thats why McCain has reemerged, republicans have forgotten why they left him in the first place - they just need to be reminded. They may think that he's the only one that can get elected too though.

Posted by: Jonesy on December 28, 2007 at 8:15 PM | PERMALINK

I dunno, Steve, but you raise some good points.

Ultimately, Republicans want to pick a winner who can beat the Democratic nominee and they may overlook "maverick" McCain's past remarks and votes... spin his "bipartisanship" to their advantage in looking toward the general election. Of course, as you say, McCain could also "disavow everything he used to believe."

In match-up polls, McCain beats Hillary and Obama, but Mitt, Rudy, and Huck don't.

So I wouldn't count McCain out even with Mitt's attack ads.... not yet.

Good news is Edwards beats all of the Repub contenders including McCain in the last poll that included him for comparison. Sure would like to see Edwards included in future match-ups against Repubs.

If Georgia's bellwether county holds true, Edwards could win the state's Democratic primary even though Hillary was ahead in the most recent poll here. It's made me take a closer look at Edwards v. Richardson before my primary on Feb. 5.

Posted by: Apollo 13 on December 28, 2007 at 9:22 PM | PERMALINK

I agree that McCain's the one who has more to lose.

The whole "I'll be whatever you want me to be" shtick is Romney's strength. If the fundies wanted him to stand on his head while giving his acceptance speech, he'd stand on his head while giving his acceptance speech. And they think that's dandy, even though most of them would rather have Huck.

But McCain's strength is his reputation for integrity. And because his campaign went south so early this year, people haven't been reminded of the self-induced tatters his integrity is in. Once you've destroyed the core reason to vote for a candidate, what's left?

There isn't going to be enough popcorn in the whole WORLD for this year's race.

Assuming you meant the GOP nomination race, truer words were never spoken.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on December 28, 2007 at 10:22 PM | PERMALINK

Given the national media's fondness for the "straight-talking" "maverick" McCain, I don't agree he has more to lose. He would have more to lose if the truth were actually told. Unfortunately, it won't be.

Posted by: PaulB on December 29, 2007 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK
….McCain's strength is his reputation for integrity….low-tech cyclist at 10:22 PM
Crap, if an old pol like McCain can't fake integrity how can he be expected to fake sincerity? Posted by: Mike on December 29, 2007 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

John Dickerson doesn't know dick.

Posted by: Menlo on December 29, 2007 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

McCain is a war criminal and was wrong on Vietnam and Iraq. He scares me. His PR frame is that he is a truth teller who stands up to Bush and the sleazy evangelicals. He never did. He enabled Bush and sucked up, indeed, crawled before the moronic evanglical right. I find his embarrassing. Bush endangered America's security and economy. None of the Republicans have a clue about the damage he did or that Bush's War Against America has changed the landscape forever. America is in decline...a decline which will grow more rapid over the next 2-3 years. The next president will need to manage the rapid decline.

Posted by: allie on December 29, 2007 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

McCain has nothing to lose. His only hope is to hang on long enough to damage Romney sufficiently that the GOP money folks are left to choose between McCain, Huckabee and Thompson. We know they're in hysterics about Huckabee, and Thompson can't be bothered to campaign, so if McCain trashes Romney he has a decent shot. Meanwhile, if I were Ron Paul I'd be keeping a sharp eye on my wallet whenever McCain's around.

Posted by: weldon berger on December 29, 2007 at 8:20 PM | PERMALINK

Corruption. Supporting illegal activity, such as illegal infiltration into our country.

Posted by: Luther on December 31, 2007 at 2:40 AM | PERMALINK
Post a comment

Remember personal info?



Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM

buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly