Republicans do an excellent job of negatively branding Democratic candidates well in advance of elections. With the help of the mainstream media, they branded Gore as a wishy-washy shilly-shallying smart-ass; John Kerry as a flip-flopping politician with dubious claims to his military medals; and Hilly Clinton as a castrating bitch, an extreme liberal and an untrustworthy political opportunist. You can count on the Republicans doing the same to any Democratic candidate with a good chance of capturing the 2008 nomination.
If John McCain secures the Republican nomination in '08, he is probably the greatest threat to any Democratic nominee -- With brand recognition as a maverick straight-shooter, adored by much of the mainstream media, he stands a good chance of collecting millions of votes among moderate independents and even among Democrats who would otherwise vote Democratic. A recent national poll shows McCain beating Hillary Clinton by 52%-39%.
We have to start rebranding McCain as a conventional flip flopping, double-talking politician, removing any notion that he stands above conventional politics. It's time to show that the Straight Talk Express is running on a very crooked track.
• McCain was one of the few Republicans to oppose Bush's 2001 tax cuts. Even as the deficit soars, he now supports making the deficit-inducing tax cuts for the rich permanent.
• McCain previously called Jerry Falwell an "agent of intolerance." Now he plans to give a commencement address at Falwell's Liberty University. Falwell complimented McCain, calling him an advocate of "the husband-female family." McCain now says he is convinced that Falwell--who blamed gays, feminists and pro-choice advocates for the attacks on 9/ll--is not intolerant.
• While McCain has a pro-life voting record, he also has said "Certainly in the short-term, or even the long-term I would not support repeal of Roe v Wade, which would then force women in American to [undergo] illegal and dangerous operations." Recently, however, he endorsed South Dakota's punitive anti-abortion legislation which would make it a felony punishable by 5 years in prison for a doctor to perform an abortion and makes no exceptions for rape, incest, and the health of the woman.
• After a bitter 2002 primary campaign against Bush, he has now cuddled up to the President. McCain enthusiastically endorsed Bush's reelection in 2004 and made numerous campaign appearances for Bush/Cheney. Even as other Republicans now try to run away from Bush's plummeting ratings poll ratings, McCain continues to make appearances on Bush's behalf. If anything, McCain stands to Bush's right on Iraq, advocating the sending of more troops.
OK, McCain has occasionally stood apart from most of his Republican colleagues, sponsoring the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform legislation and leading congressional opposition to the torture of prisoners. Much of McCain's maverick image is based on these occasional independent initiatives. But even in the case of the anti-torture bill, McCain hardly made a peep when Bush attached a "signing statement" which essentially stated that Bush doesn't have to abide by the legislation. More frequently, McCain has been a solid Republican conservative. He campaigned in support of Arnold Schwarzenegger's referendum to prevent public unions from using members' dues to support political campaigns. He endorses teaching intelligent design. He supports a state ban on gay marriages that would deny government benefits to unmarried couples.
He is a military hawk.
It's time to unleash a campaign over the next 2 ½ years to rebrand McCain as just another ordinary, double-talking, flip-flopping politician. Recently, there have been a few cracks in the mainstream media's love-fest with McCain and some criticism of his flip-flops. The progressive blogosphere and media outlets must repeat, over-and over, the flip-flopper image of McCain. Letters to the editor must be written during every local McCain appearance. Pointed questions must be asked whenever he holds a town meeting.
It is vital that by the time of the '08 presidential election, the bloom is off of McCain's rose.