Giuliani Blog Tracking the likely Presidential candidacy of Rudy Giuliani

Sunday, May 07, 2006

McCain Hearts Falwell, or is it Falwell Hearts McCain?

The same day as Byron York indulges in the MSMcCain Kool Aid over at WaPo, comes this coincidentally timed Jerry Falwell op-ed in the New York Times playing up the fact that it was he, not the Senator, who made the first move in their budding relationship:

The senator's speech does not symbolize an endorsement of an unannounced candidacy on my part, and it does not mark the quest for such an endorsement on his part. Mr. McCain has never sought such an endorsement, and I have not offered one. ...

In September I called a meeting with Mr. McCain to put aside any past misunderstandings. We did not ask for apologies from each other, nor were any offered. No ideological deals were brokered.

He says he's not endorsing McCain, but he's not exactly throwing cold water on the notion either:

The next election for president is more than two years away. Mr. McCain is the front-runner for the nomination [Ahem -- not quite. -ed.] and is the kind of conservative candidate whom I would have little trouble supporting.

The electoral landscape, however, is vast and fickle, apt to change over the next many months. If Mr. McCain receives the nomination for president, then I will work for his election. But if another candidate who shares our values wins the nomination, then I will work to support that candidate, too.

Inquiring minds want to know: What role did John Weaver play in drafting or facilitating this op-ed?

Meanwhile, Carol Platt Liebau highlights the trouble with McCain's Falwell Strategy:

But here's the problem. Both Sen. McCain and Rev. Falwell's calculations seem to assume that Rev. Falwell holds a lot of sway over Christian conservatives today -- even though the piece accurately points out that Rev. Falwell's influence has been much diminished. For one thing, in the internet age, it's easier for ordinary people to keep abreast of politicians and their activities on their own. And therefore, the "gatekeeping" function on the dissemination of information that activists like Rev. Falwell used to fill (in essence, "we're keeping track of the politicians because you can't/don't want to") is no longer nearly as vital. People have the ability to become thoroughly and quickly informed largely on their own.
Bingo!

This strikes me as the essential point about McCain's pre-presidential machinations that all in the media are missing: all McCain does is run to gatekeepers -- whether it be Falwell, Bush Pioneers, Terry Nelson -- hoping to arrange a tidy, smoke-filled room nomination like the one he imagines Bush got in 2000. What he doesn't do is tend to the grassroots, be it spitting in their face with the McCain-Kennedy amnesty, or brazenly trampling on the Constitution. He imagines that he can get an establishment coronation while simultaneously screwing the grassroots and the netroots.

I know that Republicans love their frontrunners... but the grassroots and the gatekeepers need to be somewhat in alignment for this strategy to work, no? George W. Bush wasn't nominated in a smoke filled room -- he was far ahead in all the polls early on, and the gatekeepers were giving the grassroots what they wanted. By contrast, the grassroots needs McCain and his immigration plan like they need a bout of avian flu.

In an old media era, it's possible for a Bob Dole to get nominated against the better judgment of well, everybody, because of the influence of gatekeepers. Is it still possible in a new media era? 2000 was inconclusive -- both the grassroots and the gatekeepers liked Bush. McCain may find those prickly bloggers he didn't lift a finger to protect have swept the rug out from his ability to execute his frontrunner strategy.

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