Editors’ Note: Come next January, we will be seeing a new face in the White House. This political shift is one of the most anticipated in recent years and carries with it the future of our troubled nation. For the past several months, the political fervor has been high: candidate signs are stuck firmly in lawns, people are glued to CNN/YouTube debates and Bush countdown clocks adorn key chains and office desks.
To say the least, this election year is an important one, and TBG will be taking an in-depth look at one hopeful each month in an effort to get a conversation started on campus about who we want to run our country. By November, you should be well prepared to cast your ballot.
Republican presidential candidate John McCain has declared he is “the luckiest man you will ever meet.” Luck knocked at his door again, in February, when he made a decisive step toward the Republican nomination. Super Tuesday crowned him as the Republican front-runner with a total of 514 delegates. Two days later, his biggest opponent, Mitt Romney, dropped out the race, followed by Mike Huckabee in March. It has been two months since McCain secured the Republican nomination – two months he has been able to focus solely on his campaign and the election in November. With the Democratic nomination in a gridlock between Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), McCain may not be the biggest focus of the media at the moment, but he feels his position in the presidential race is ideal. He doesn’t have other Republican opponents working against him, he has rallied a larger support among Republicans and he has had time to polish his image abroad. In a recent CBS/New York Times poll, ABC News reported that in a hypothetical race, McCain and Obama would tie in a presidential vote, with 45 percent of the vote each, while Clinton would slightly edge out McCain, with 48 percent compared to McCain’s 43 percent. These preliminary figures set the stage for a highly competitive race, once the field is set after the Democratic primaries.
“It’s good for him because he takes the opportunity to go all over the country, and the world,” said Anne Wisniewski, vice-chair of MSU Students for McCain. “The Democrats are focusing on each other. McCain is really focusing on what he has to offer.” [john]
Despite his early nomination, McCain “isn’t on vacation,” Wisniewski said. He has been all over the country giving speeches, participating in forums and town halls, and holding fundraisers. In the last four weeks, he went to East Coast and the South Western states, as well as Mississippi and Florida. More recently, he was in Pennsylvania, New York and Texas, where he raised $1.7 million in February alone, according to The Washington Post.
McCain’s campaign has been “remarkably consistent,” according to Matt Grossmann, a political science assistant professor that has done research on American political campaigns. “They are running it all on [McCain’s] biography,” he said. “Republicans are not well liked in the public because of Bush. They can’t run an ideological campaign.”
And it is his biography and experience that impress many of McCain’s supporters the most. He was already known to the public when he entered the 2008 presidential race, as he has been an Arizona senator for 22 years and campaigned against George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential primaries. McCain is also well known for his decorated military history. He served as a naval aviator in the military and was a prisoner of the Vietnam War.
“With almost 30 years in the Senate and his entire life in the military, he has more knowledge than both the democrats,” said Carrie White, the chair of MSU Students for McCain.
Beyond a deep military history and lengthy tenure in the Senate, White and Wisniewski think McCain is strong on every issue. According to his campaign literature, his major plans are to win the war in Iraq, cut taxes, control health care costs, fight special interests in Washington, restore the trust in the American government and secure the borders. Additionally, he’s against torture and wants to close Guantanamo Bay.
Another issue McCain has talked about is the environment, a big point among the youth that not many Republicans address, Wisniewski said. When McCain came to MSU this past January, for instance, he spoke about global warming. His message was that no matter the controversies, making changes cannot hurt. “Even if global warming is a myth, what’s wrong from us making these changes and having a cleaner environment?” Wisniewski said. More recently, on March 26, McCain told the World Affairs Council in Los Angeles the risks of global warming have no borders. “We need a successor to the Kyoto Treaty, a cap-and-trade system that delivers the necessary environmental impact in an economically responsible manner,” he said.
[sam] But critics doubt whether his efforts will be enough to stop global warming. “It’s a step in another direction, but it’s not enough,” said James Crugnale, an environmental journalism graduate student. “He’s way better on the environment than Bush, but not as good as the Democrats.”
Other students have found flaws in the presidential candidate as well. Although she respects McCain for what he’s done for the country, health communications graduate student Sam Munday said she won’t vote for him. “I think that this war was misplaced. And I am not interested at making our taxes as low as possible. I am into getting resources into where they should be, like schools and the public health system.”
Many critics question his economic policy, especially since he changed position about how to handle the mortgage crisis after being criticized by both the Democrats and Republicans. He denied federal help to homeowners in danger of losing their homes before changing his mind: “There is nothing more important than keeping alive the American dream to own your home, and priority No. 1 is to keep well-meaning, deserving homeowners who are facing foreclosure in their homes,” said McCain, according to The New York Times.
Despite being the GOP candidate, McCain has alienated some Republicans that feel he’s no better than Clinton or Obama. “McCain is by far worse than President Bush, he is Bush to the n-th degree,” said Kyle Bristow, an international relations senior and former chair of the MSU Young Americans for Freedom. “Not only does he want to be president, but he wants to be president to push an agenda which I do not agree with. He is as dangerous as Obama in this way.”
[kyle] Bristow’s main criticism is McCain’s agenda doesn’t serve national interests. Bristow disagrees with America’s mission to spread democracy in Iraq, with free trade agreements in Latin America that have “destroyed the American economy,” and with amnesty for illegal immigrants. “We need to support a candidate who will rise above his party and puts America first,” he said.
Despite dissent, Grossmann thinks McCain is running the right strategy. “The Republicans locked in a very good general election candidate. Among the conservatives and the party elite, he wouldn’t have been on the top of the list,” he said.
Now McCain is waiting out the Democratic primaries, which will determine his opponent in the fall. McCain’s strategy hasn’t been too aggressive so far. “The problem is he doesn’t know who he is running against. It’s hard to be critical and still come out looking good,” Grossmann said. Once the Democrats have their nominee, which may not happen before the Democratic Convention at the end of August, McCain may decide to be more aggressive and target his opponent’s weaknesses.
The Democrats may have several months until their candidate is even chosen, and MSU students still have a few months to decide who they want to support. Without a focus on competing against fellow Republican presidential hopefuls, McCain is not wasting any time campaigning for the White House, and his focus will eventually become more specific when his opponent is selected. Although his place as the Republican candidate is secured, a seat is the White House is still anyone’s game.