Sunday, October 29, 2006

Keep this one on file for 2008

I'm not the first person to point out that John McCain might have an uphill battle in the South as he seeks the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. I'm just the most recent.

McCain's potential struggles in the nation's most reliably red region have come into plainer view in recent weeks as three of the five GOP members of Alabama's U.S. House delegation -- U.S. Reps. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville; Terry Everett, R-Rehobeth; and Mike Rogers, R-Saks -- have said they aren't that wild about the idea of putting McCain at the top of the ticket.

Their opposition to the Arizona senator runs the gamut from understated -- Aderholt notes he is "not a real McCain fan" -- to straightforward -- Everett calls McCain "someone who I would have a real problem supporting as president of the United States" -- to as unambiguous as a shovel to the face -- Rogers calls McCain "a loose cannon for years, very unreliable, a showboater." (It seems fair to observe here that Rogers is the guy who supports a bill that would "create organized militias to catch illegal border crossers" and who also said "[n]one of these abuses are really occurring" after spending a few hours at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp last year, but I digress.)

Whether McCain ultimately will become the GOP's standard bearer and make the congressmen regret their words is unknown, of course. But their unease with him as the top dog means he'll miss out on valuable opportunities to campaign with the incumbents in their home districts. It also suggests he'll have to work extra hard to shore up support in Southern states (particularly in Alabama and South Carolina with their early primaries) if he hopes to remain the favorite in the 2008 GOP sweepstakes.

McCain's straits aren't quite as dire in Alabama as it may seem, though. He has such a good relationship with popular Gov. Bob Riley that people have begun to tout Riley as his prospective VP running mate, and as the political cliche goes, we're a long way from 2008. Anyone who claims to know exactly what the electoral atmosphere will be like then is either a liar or a time traveler.

Still, expect to see a lot more of McCain in the South than you did in 2000. This will be his last shot, and he knows it.

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