Today, John McCain officially began his bid for the presidency in New Hampshire, kicking off a five state announcement tour. His speech contained some criticisms of the Bush administration and also a list of goals: strengthen the battle against “violent extremists”, balance the budget, save Social Security and Medicare, simplify the tax code, increase energy independence, cover more uninsured people, and better public schools.
McCain calls this process “starting over”, which hopefully will inject a boost into his flagging campaign. He has already replaced his finance director, Carla Eudy, after disappointing first-quarter results. Another problem facing McCain has been his prominent role as a chief backer of the effort in Iraq, second only to the President. However, although this stance has hurt McCain among independents and general-election matchups, the majority of the Republican base still supports the war.
Even though McCain is polling low currently, a similar situation occurred in 2000. In a September 1999 WMUR/CNN poll, George Bush was favored by 45% of New Hampshire’s likely Republican Voters, Bob Dole by 15%, and McCain by 12%. And, McCain went on to decisively win the New Hampshire primary before being defeated in South Carolina. Nonetheless, McCain is facing a loss of support from independents who, in New Hampshire, are able to vote in either the Republican or Democratic primary. If disillusioned independents who carried McCain in victory to 2000 flock to the Democratic primary, a key component of McCain’s backing disappears.
But as in the words of Joe Scarborough, “McCain knows it’s a marathon, not a sprint”.