Thursday, April 24, 2008

Sending Childers Up McCain's Spine

Perhaps we, me, not just the media, need to change our focus, at least expand it, and look at other stories besides the sharp-elbow fight and the super-delegates. I saw this one yesterday, read about it some, and dismissed too quickly.

This particular story was written by John Mercurio, from the National Journal.

I'm referring to the special election in a northern Mississippi congressional district, the one President Bush carried in 2004 by 25 points. There, in the cradle of the conservative South, Democrat Travis Childers came within 410 votes of winning outright the seat former Rep. Roger Wicker (R) never took with less than 63 percent. Childers, who survived a barrage of TV ads aimed at connecting him to his national party, is now considered the slight favorite to win the May 13 runoff against Republican Greg Davis.

The bigger picture, looking elsewhere besides the minute details reported by AP, NYT and such outlets as daily fodder, as daily substitutes for investigate reporting, can look different than the repeated platitudes that become all that is talked about. And that bigger picture can at times be found in such places as northern Mississippi.

A fluke? Not really. Just last month, physician Bill Foster (D) captured former House Speaker Dennis Hastert's district in solid Republican territory.

See? It's hidden in plain sight.

Disaffection with the GOP brand at the House level has developed into a major concern this year for the man now trying to promote that brand from the top down. Few doubt McCain will carry Mississippi or Louisiana this fall, but then few people thought Democrats had a chance to pick up those House seats, either.

Conventional wisdom had Senator Clinton winning PA by 20 points; she won it by 9.7 points, and it is still being called a significant win: her campaign's spin is the conventional wisdom. Of course, she wants to win the nomination because the Democratic nominee is going to win the general election. Witness:

There were also signs of trouble for McCain in Pennsylvania, where more than a quarter of Republicans voted against him in the "uncontested" GOP race. McCain won 73 percent of the 805,000 votes cast, but Ron Paul took 16 percent and Mike Huckabee received 11 percent.
This is when McCain is the "presumptive" nominee. Still...

The disconnect is playing out elsewhere, too. In North Carolina, local Republicans bickered this week with McCain over a TV ad the state party plans to run in advance of the gubernatorial primary on May 6.

This is SwiftBoat 1.0; more releases to come.

McCain quickly cried foul. But local Republicans defied McCain, refusing to back down. Of course, such Sister Souljah moments have upsides for McCain, who keeps a delicate balance between appealing to conservatives and independents. It allows him to stake a claim against the tawdry side of politics while his party does his dirty work for him.

So I think: someone else does the dirty deed, Senator McCain plays the role of the statesman, whilst benefiting from the dirty work of people who support him. Such is politics.

But when the GOP brand is tainted, so is McCain, who then has more to worry about than trying to match the Democrats dollar for dollar. While Obama has yet to "seal the deal" among Democrats, McCain's task to convince voters that they should stick with a Republican, even one they like, could be a far more difficult challenge this fall.

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