U.S. Election: Is McCain Falling Through the Cracks?
Public support for the Republican presidential contender is waning fast.
Gabriela Perdomo – An electoral season that has started earlier than ever might be already taking a toll on one of the most promising contenders aspiring to the United States’ presidency. Time is against John McCain, a Vietnam veteran who was tortured when captured as a prisoner of war.
Gabriela Perdomo – An electoral season that has started earlier than ever might be already taking a toll on one of the most promising contenders aspiring to the United States’ presidency. Time is against John McCain, a Vietnam veteran who was tortured when captured as a prisoner of war. As the accelerated pace of the campaign goes on, people are noticing McCain is a capable man, but also an old one.
At 70, McCain is viewed as an experienced politician with thorough understanding of one of America’s most powerful institutions, the armed forces, and an insider who knows the intricacies of working at Capitol Hill. He has been a soldier, and has represented Arizona in both houses of Congress. He is articulate, well-spoken, and outspoken—which is not always a good thing.
He is a Republican, and a conservative on social issues such as abortion and capital punishment. McCain wants to ban abortion except for rare cases and supports expanding the death penalty to convicted terrorists. Despite his strong conservative credentials, McCain is well respected by people on both sides of the political spectrum, mainly because he is an advocate of maintaining “America’s higher moral ground” in times of war. He has used his personal experience to entice the current administration to take a stand against torture.
When his campaign had unofficially began in February this year, McCain’s prospects looked healthy. According to a May poll by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, the Arizona senator was ahead of two Democratic presidential hopefuls—New York senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and former U.S. vice-president Al Gore—and tied with Illinois senator Barack Obama. In the latest Quinnipiac survey, McCain trails Rodham Clinton, Gore and Obama, by a few percentage points.
Surveys by Gallup for USA Today are also showing a sharp decline in McCain’s numbers among GOP supporters. In January, the Arizona senator stood at 27 per cent, five points behind former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani. In the latest poll, McCain has plummeted to 18 per cent while Giuliani remains close to the 30 per cent mark.
Moreover, it seems like McCain is the only one out of four strong Republican contenders—Giuliani, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and actor and former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson are the others—who has lost support consistently over the past few months.
Along with the polls, poor numbers in fundraising also suggest McCain could be on his way out of this fierce race. According to official accounts, in the second quarter of this year he raised $11 million U.S., compared to $17 million U.S. for Giuliani and $14 million U.S. for Romney. McCain’s fundraising declined by $2 million U.S. and he had no choice but to let go more than 40 people from his campaign staff.
Most of the disenchantment with McCain is due to the age factor. From the beginning of this year, the Arizona senator tried to minimize the impact that being 77 by the end of his eventual presidency would have. But his contenders have made a point in bringing up his age, even unwillingly. Giuliani, in his early sixties, is old enough to claim he has experience and looks young enough to fight off any possible criticism on his age.
On the Democratic front, the thought of 45-year-old Obama as a rival has highlighted McCain’s age even more. Republicans themselves would not want to see a final race between Obama and McCain, because the Arizona senator’s age would be an issue obvious enough for undecided voters to reconsider their options. In fact, in surveys conducted by Rasmussen Reports, Obama’s lead over McCain has grown considerably.
Age might seem superficial, but in McCain’s case it is proving to be important. The presidential hopeful is having a hard time shaking off his image of old-guard Republican, even though he was moderate and progressive enough to back a recent immigration reform bill—while representing a state that borders Mexico—that some GOP lawmakers deemed as “amnesty” for illegal residents. McCain’s critics say he has not been able to redefine himself ideologically like Romney has. He has also forcefully defended the current president’s policies in Iraq. It might just be that, after years of experience in Washington, McCain knows exactly where he stands. For better or worse, America’s thirst for change, coupled with the fast pace of this unique race, is leaving a strong contender behind.