February 29, 2008

The Economist: John McCain’s Obstacles

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Volt @ 10:18 am


The Economist, February 29, 2008

John McCain, an enthusiastic gambler and inveterate collector of lucky charms, has the luck of the devil. For him to win the Republican nomination for president, Mike Huckabee had to beat Mitt Romney in Iowa, Rudy Giuliani had to pursue a deranged strategy, Fred Thompson had to contract narcolepsy, and the “surge” had to go well. Mr McCain has run the tables.

But will the senator’s luck outlast the primary season? The past week or so has produced some ominous signs. On January 21st the New York Times ran a story alleging that Mr McCain had a too-close-for-comfort relationship with a female lobbyist. Four days later the Democratic National Committee filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, suggesting the McCain campaign had violated the law on spending restraints.

The short-term damage has been limited. The New York Times poisoned its own story by nods and winks. The debate about Mr McCain’s campaign-finance behaviour is so convoluted that only lawyers understand it. The McCain campaign is now hoovering up more cash than ever, thanks to conservative rage at the “liberal media”.

Yet both stories point to a long-term problem: money, not sex. Mr McCain sells himself as a scourge of special interests and hammer of lobbyists. He also styles himself a hands-on reformer who has tried to fix America’s campaign-finance system. For a presidential candidate, this might prove the equivalent of attaching a sign to your behind saying “Kick me”.

Mr McCain is no stranger to the world of lobbyists. Several members of his staff, including his campaign manager, Rick Davis, are lobbyists. So are about 60 of the most generous contributors to his campaign. The senator is not averse to taking lifts on corporate jets. The public-finance system Mr McCain helped design is so unwieldy that even the man who invented it finds it a nightmare.

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