McCain’s Stand: How Will It Play? (UPDATED)

Presidential Elections, US Elections, US Politics

To his credit, yesterday John McCain tried to do some damage control and express opposition to some of the more out-there ideas expressed by his supporters.

Josh Marshall asks his readers for their take on McCain’s body language in those clips. What I see is someone who is bothered on two fronts — one, with the substance of what is being said, and two, with the idea that this is now his base.

McCain has long cultivated two distinct groups, sometimes doing a better job of convincing one or the other that he is one of them. In 2000, the group he was able to convince more effectively was the moderates, the ones who thought he was willing to stand up to the “agents of intolerance.” In 2008, several actions including the selection of Sarah Palin seem to have gone a long way towards convincing the religious right that if he is not actually one of them, he recognizes that they are the gatekeepers, and that he will do what he needs to do to keep them happy. But the very actions that gained him support in this group lost him support in the more moderate group.

I think that while McCain’s apparent stand on principle (one could argue that it was merely an attempt to counteract a media narrative that was gaining steam) will get some deserved approval from the more moderate bunch, I think this might have an equal and opposite reaction amongst the more extremist bunch. He’s staked his campaign on the extremist bunch; he can ill afford to alienate them now.

And isn’t that nice woman who he interrupted at the end (this segment starts about the 50-second mark in the above video clip) precisely the kind of person he’s going for? We only see her from the back, but she seemed to be a white woman of indeterminate age, though she didn’t look very young. He positively grabbed the microphone out of her hand, then walked away from her as he addressed her and the crowd, and wound up with a stern glance back at her and a reproving shake of his head.

It telegraphed his displeasure with her and her question, which was his intention no doubt. But what will she think of him now? What did the people like her in the crowd think? What will the many people like her who see this on TV think?

The McCain campaign continues to try to use elitism against Obama:

Nicolle Wallace, one of Mr. McCain’s senior aides, tried to turn the tables on Mr. Obama on Friday and accuse him of denigrating the people who go to Mr. McCain and Ms. Palin’s rallies. “Broadsides against our supporters are insulting,” she said. “He attacks the same people he once called bitter.”

Was McCain’s reaction to the woman who said Obama was “Arab” not elitist? Was it not saying “look here, you ignorant fool, you’re wrong and I’m here to set you straight”?

He’s been trying to have his cake and eat it too for a very long time — as the election nears, voters want assurance that he’s absolutely on their side and just pretending to court the other side. And these actions seem more likely to me to be directed at the moderate crowd who have already decided what with Palin and Britney and Ayers they won’t be voting for McCain this year, while eroding the support of the people upon whom he is now dependent.


UPDATE: Here is a video and transcript of an interview with Gayle Quinnell, the woman who said that Obama was an Arab.  She is 75.

Dana Bash: What did you think about McCain said. He said he’s a decent person

Quinnell:  Well he did have didn’t have (unintelligible) I think McCain wanted to (unintelligible) I don’t think he wanted to say anything against him. You know he didn’t want to cut him down. That was my way of thinking. I don’t think he wanted to cut him down. So he just kind of brushed me off.

The transcript (and presumably the interview) cuts off at an unfortunate point — this is exactly what I want to know.

Reporter: What was your reaction when Senator McCain backed away?

Quinnell What was my reaction? Well when he didn’t want to talk about it

That’s it.  Nothing more in the transcript.  (“Brushed me off” offers some clues, though.)



  1. diane  •  Oct 11, 2008 @1:17 pm

    Add to that that the basest of the McCain base, has turned against him because he dared to say something respectful about Obama.

    I’m loving this blog.

  2. engineer  •  Oct 11, 2008 @2:28 pm

    I thought the most telling comment from McCain was when he said something like “you don’t have to be afraid of Senator Obama as President.” I think first, he sees the danger of letting these folks continue down the path they are going and two, he’s coming to grip with the election slipping away.

  3. sozobe  •  Oct 11, 2008 @2:40 pm

    Hi diane!

    Engineer, yes, I know what you mean. There seemed to be an element of resignation about it. Interesting.