The early reviews for last night’s Republican debate in Florida are in, with the large majority of reporters giving John McCain the line of the night. He blasted Hillary’s now-dead proposal to spend $1 million for a memorial to the Woodstock rock concert, “a cultural and pharmaceutical event” that he said he couldn’t attend because “I was tied up at the time.” The line drew a rare standing ovation from the debate crowd in appreciation for the former prisoner of war.
In the round focused on bashing Hillary, the Fox moderators put up the network’s latest poll numbers showing hypothetical general election match-ups. The Republican who performed the best was not Giuliani, but McCain. Although McCain bettered Giuliani’s showing by a statistically insignificant margin of 1%, the Arizona senator can boast of the same electability Hizzoner claims. The most recent series of Rasmussen polling has Hillary leading Giuliani by 7%, but she squeaks past McCain by only 1%. A case can be made for declaring McCain the most electable Republican, but his problem is resuscitating his campaign to win the primaries.
A main component of Giuliani’s strategy is emphasizing his ability to beat Hillary in a general election, a mask covering up his more liberal social views. If he were to become president, then a large pillar of his appeal is knocked out – his purpose to prevent Hillary from the White House is achieved. Then, when it comes time to actual policy making, his vows to nominate strict-constructionist judges may not pacify the base. On the other hand, McCain stands firmly with Republicans on the deal-breaker for many, abortion; he has a 0% NARAL rating. Although he differs on immigration and campaign finance, you don’t see candidates saying “I can’t support a pro-campaign-finance-reform nominee” – the issue isn’t necessarily a tipping point (although it still galvanizes the base).
McCain’s chances at the nomination still seem slim, although the electability and experience appeal remain.