In a sign of just how poisonous President Bush has become to his fellow Republican’s election hopes, the sitting President will speak on the opening night of the Republican convention, and there will not be a joint media appearance with John McCain. While it is not uncommon for a sitting president to speak on the first night of the convention, and then get out the way, a lack of a joint appearance is reflective of the tightrope the McCain campaign has to walk when it comes to Bush.
The problem for McCain is that he needs Bush to ease the minds of some hardcore Republicans who are skeptical about him, and he also needs Bush’s fundraising abilities. However, actually being seen with the president in public would reinforce the Democratic theme that McCain represents a third Bush term. According to the New York Times, Republicans are divided on the issue. Some see Bush’s popularity as essential for McCain with the Republican base, while others just wish he would stay home.
In reality, this whole choreographed dance is a ruse designed to fool voters into believing that McCain is his own man, a maverick. One only has to look at the big issues of this campaign the economy, the war, and healthcare to see his total agreement with George W. Bush. What this news does emphasize is McCain’s deeply flawed status as a major party nominee.
A few years ago John McCain made the strategic error of selling out his own base in favor of becoming the heir apparent to Bush. This seemed like a good idea in the post-9/11 political world, but when Bush’s popularity ratings tanked, so did McCain’s appeal with most of the country. Now McCain is man without a base, who won his Party’s nomination by default.
He is saddled with a historically unpopular president, and a party rank and file that doesn’t trust his move towards Bush on the issues. This is why it will take an epic collapse by Barack Obama for John McCain to win the White House in November. McCain is the leader of a weakened party that doesn’t trust his leadership. Not since the days of Mike Dukakis has a political party been led by such a weak nominee.