Home > Tim Pawlenty > What Does the McCain Team Mean?

What Does the McCain Team Mean?

So Allah over at Hotair scoffs pretty loudly at the news that Pawlenty’s fundraiser attendees/PAC staff are largely former McCain people.  The Hill reports:

Among those interested in getting to know Pawlenty are Douglas Holtz-Eakin and Randy Scheunemann, two top policy advisers from the McCain presidential campaign who have joined the Minnesota governor’s host committee…

While Romney has a team of tested veterans to rely on if he runs again, Pawlenty is using his PAC to show off some who might come to his aid if he enters the race. Other McCain veterans teaming up with Pawlenty’s PAC are political strategists Bo Harmon, Jon Seaton and Terry Nelson, all of whom played roles in the 2008 campaign.

Here’s Allah:

An all-star list of GOP strategists for his PAC’s first fundraiser. Hey — I thought Mitt was supposed to be the RINO candidate this time…

His commenters are even more vicious, excorciating McCain’s staff as RINOS who are also useless.  Does this sort of analysis make sense?  Is Pawlenty more likely to run to the center because he has a team of advisers that once back a “centrist”?  And were these folks the enormous failures some conservatives portray?

I think the answers are “no” and “not really” respectively.  McCain had his own loyalists from the 2000 run, but the new people weren’t especially likely to be ideological RINOS.  Remember, when McCain started his 2008 run- when he started building up a campaign infrastructure- folks thought the race would be him, Rudy, and mystery conservative (probably George Allen).  Conservative strategists weren’t crazy to think McCain was the best bet.  That probably explains Terry Nelson, who was such a RINO he headed up the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign.  So I think, while McCain’s team was probably not unusually ideological flexible.

I’m less sure about the contention that McCain’s team “failed”.  On the one hand, it’s obvious they did so.  I criticized his campaign, generally, repeatedly during the 2008 general.  Why would you select Sarah Palin and then try to pitch her to centrists, instead of to urban, ethnic blue-collar voters who were doubting Obama, and who could have related to a more self-sufficient, frontier-oriented Palin narrative?  Why would you bring the Ayers stuff up if you had no intention of hitting hard with it?

There’s a good argument to be made that Barack Obama, pre-Republican convention, was in something like the position McGovern was in 72′, albeit in a better year for Democrats.  He was ideologically extreme candidate whose extremeness couldn’t have been properly exploited by a Republican, but who had been almost wrecked by his Democratic opponent’s attacks (think Muskie wrecks McGovern).  The coalition was there for the splitting and then, at the penultimate movement, McCain’s camp balked.  Someone up there was making stupid decisions.  That said, McCain did win the primaries.  If the other bunch of GOP strategists are such geniuses, why couldn’t they pull their candidate over the finish line against a pathetically weak McCain?

I do worry about the possibility that the McCain folks have learned the wrong lessons from the 2008 race.  The right lesson, it seems to me, is that a nominee needs to address the base before he wins the nomination, so he doesn’t have to select a frontierswoman straight out of the conservative id to rev them up.  But, there are a lot of small ways to go wrong if you assume, A.)  that because McCain won the nomination, a relative moderate has a reasonable chance of winning the nomination, B.)  the Palin fall from grace totally negates the tremendous power of her gut populist type of politics done properly.  It’s a tough recipe and I hope they get the mixture right.  I’m at least willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Categories: Tim Pawlenty
  1. MWS
    October 14, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    Good analysis as usual. I esecially agree about the base and wrapping them up pre-convention. But I suspect (given the troubles McCain had) this should be almost conventional wisdom by now. If you have to spend most of your time after the convention ginning up your base (or, heaven forbid, pleading with them to trust you), then your goose is cooked.

    Team McCain ran a much better Primary than General, which is ironic, since the CW on him was that he was a better general election candidate than primary candidate.

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