In this race for the presidency in 2008, it is clear that the majority of voters still do not have a clue as to whom they will vote. Mainstream media is quick to point out that McCain is dropping in the polls, and also, is running on empty when it comes to money on hand.
However, all of this early speculating on the polls proves how erratic this election cycle is.
A look on pollingreport.com will show that despite what the media is saying, McCain still is very competitive. In all the major media polls, CNN, CBS, FOXNews, etc. McCain holds a second to third place lead over Romney, who despite his money and advertising on those markets, still sits in the single digits. What is more revealing about pollingreport.com is that 61% of Republicans are pining for more choices in the race. I have to read that as a lot of Republicans are unsettled over who to pick.
Romney's "lead" in Iowa, as reported in recent press, is really a paper tiger. Without Giuliani and McCain actively competing in the Ames Straw Poll, Romney is the the only top-tier candidate there, and subsequently, the only choice. You have to realize that when players like Tommy Thompson, Sam Brownback, and Mike Huckabee are exerting vast resources in Iowa, and you are missing the top two rivals, it is a meaningless poll. Romney in this early Iowa decision will be like the New York Yankees going to trounce the Bad News Bears of the Republican Party. The only advantage for Romney would be to get a win, a weak win, going into New Hampshire. That "first in the nation vote" where McCain has always been a favorite, may occur as early as December of 2007.
What will be interesting with all of this polling is that when the lower tier candidates start dropping out by December, we will get to see who they will support. Will candidates like Huckabee, Tommy Thompson, and Brownback openly support a pro-choice Giuliani or a flip-flopping Romney? Will they see the national polls and realize that only McCain or Giuliani can upset Hillary Clinton?
All of this speculation proves that we know nothing about this race until New Hampshire.
John McCain spent the Fourth of July not in Iowa, or New Hampshire, but Baghdad. McCain the candidate still has a job as McCain the citizen, and McCain the Senator. This is not to knock the other candidates, who have spent considerable time and energy courting votes. McCain, regardless of your viewpoint, is still making policy in a time when others are just talking.
The news continues to have a field day on McCain's political grave, but I think it is still too soon. The same media, that bemoans private money in elections is now saying that should McCain tap into public funding, that he is somehow "less" of a candidate. (By public funding, I refer to that little check box option on your 1040's, that let's you chose to earmark a portion of your return for public funded elections).
Tom Coburn, a Senator from Missouri who opposed McCain's immigration bill, said this of McCain's stick-to-your-guns courage:
"Whether you agree with him or not, Senator McCain’s actions demonstrated the qualities we rarely see in Washington — courage, character, honor, and dignity."
I am not surprised by the pundits and pollsters, who judge McCain's attempts at policy as simply a failure. You cannot fit the word "compromise" into a soundbite it seems. Everything in modern politics seems to be black and white, win or lose. And so, shades of grey, compromise, bipartisanship and the like just do not make the headlines. And neither does political courage.
Kennedy's tome on courage makes for an interesting read this campaign season. Profiles in Courage highlights great Senators of the past who would have had a clear path to the presidency if they just bent on their convictions. These men looked at their values and said that their cause was "worth the fighting for". And McCain who has long been called a "maverick", a "independent operator" and his own man is chastised by the pundits for not towing his party line and playing nice.
In another era, being your own man was called "courage". In McCain, we have a candidate who is politically courageous, who might be able to deliver on change like no candidate since Teddy Roosevelt, and yet, we balk as a media consuming public when such a force, such vigor is right in front of us.
Should McCain choose matching funds to keep his campaign afloat, I will welcome it. For in this election, we need more courage and less cowardice when it comes to taking a stand on an issue, right or wrong.