In 2000, back when Independents weren't all that sexy, I knew quite a few people, including those in my own family, who would have voted for John McCain for President. Then came South Carolina and George W. Bush neutering this once maverick politician, helping turn him into an unprincipled lackey of the Right, exactly the kind of man he'd always abhorred.
But whatever McCain let Bush and Karl Rove do to him in South Carolina and beyond, leading to him also having to saddle up to aid the bumbling Texan to win the presidency, nothing compared to what losing to Barack Obama in '08 did to the Arizona Senator. McCain never liked Barack Obama and also never respected him, so watching him do the job he feels should have been his has not only made Sen. McCain very cranky, but it's hardened his bitterness into a fine human crust.
But McCain's humiliation wasn't complete after losing in '08.
When his reelection rolled around, McCain had to double down on flip flops, airing commercials having him say things like "build the dang fence," while trying to prove to the Tea Party crowd he was one of them. To make matters worse it wasn't working, so he had to call in a big gun.
This entailed eating a lot of crow.
In 2010, up against a tough midterm election, after a reported nightmare presidential campaign with Sarah Palin that had McCain's people leaking to the press that she was a "diva" and a "whack job," the Senator from Arizona was forced to ask Sarah to help save his Senate seat.
In Sarah Palin rolled heaping praise on Sen. McCain as he and Cindy stood behind her looking like they were both about to hurl at the indignity. His star long ago tarnished, he was now left to wonder if his entire legacy would revolve around his unleashing of the force that is Sarah Palin; the power from this clout she in turn used to awaken a simmering network of infuriated Tea Party activists, lighting a fire under them so hot that they wiped out Democrats in Congress and went on to slam the entire Republican Party, which is in the throes of an identity crisis that has yet to fully play out.
The Democratic Party is hitting their own crisis of what it means to be a Democrat, but they just don't know it yet.
At the end of 2010 John McCain then pronounced the repeal of DADT as being "a very sad day," while he also blocked a military suicide prevention bill.
Whatever kind of man Sen. John McCain was that inspired independents to praise him back in 2000, he certainly isn't today.
Of course, to be fair, the man who beat him in '08 also had many of these same independent people vote for him in 2008 that McCain had on his side in 2000, but these same people have cooled on Barack Obama, too. The President shouldn't worry, because independents are fickle and there remains no one on the Right who can take him down, at least not yet.
Juan Williams took this on directly by calling out one GOP potential presidential candidate, saying Sarah Palin "can't stand on the intellectual stage" with President Obama. Beyond the intellectual issue, Sarah Palin now has troubles that run deep, all the way back to Alaska, with her own people now having a very dim view of their former governor, though this is just the beginnings of her problems.
Palin's unpopularity in Alaska is an interesting sidebar but ultimately pretty irrelevant to a possible 2012 Presidential bid. What's more relevant is that a majority of voters in every single state we have polled so far on the 2012 race has an unfavorable opinion of her. And her average favorability in the Bush/Obama states of Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Virginia that are most likely essential to Republican chances of retaking the White House is 36/56.
Regardless of Independent voters, who seem to be very personality driven in their politics, where John McCain is concerned he's proven why he's not president today. He's a loser, which in 2010 was driven home like a nail through his political heart.
Oh, sure, he won reelection, but selling your soul has a price and for Sen. John McCain the sale has been finalized.
Taylor Marsh is a political analyst and veteran national political writer out of Washington, D.C.
Editorial cartoon by Paul Szep used with permission.