John Heilemann has an article on the collapse of the McCain campaign, which went from slow rot to structural collapse this past week. It seems as if every day brings a new resignation of top staff members. With McCain likely headed out of the race sooner rather than later, it’s time to see how some of those reckless predictions of mine are looking. Just after the midterms, I wrote:
Speaking of McCain and Giuliani, here are my reckless predictions for the 2008 primaries: McCain will implode relatively early, perhaps pre-March, thanks to some episode of his famously explosive temperament mixed with a lack of primary voter support; Giuliani will go nowhere, but not for lack of money to keep trying (he might last past Super Tuesday but not get enough delegates to win the nomination); the Mormon thing will matter enough to see Romney go down to defeat in South Carolina (it seems to me to be a given that he will fare poorly in New Hampshire and Iowa), which will kill his candidacy; Duncan Hunter will do better than people expect, but still go nowhere in the end.
McCain hasn’t given up yet, but my initial sense of how his campaign would go seems to have been borne out by the meltdown of recent days. I did not foresee the fundraising difficulties that he has had, but then no one could have expected this. That is the truly remarkable part of the story: McCain has been blowing money like he’s Mitt Romney, but he didn’t have as much to spend and he hasn’t gotten as much in exchange for it. He was supposed to be the establishment candidate, but somewhere along the line he forgot to tell the establishment (or, to be more precise, he told them and they told him to take a hike).
Speaking of Romney, though, he has spent literally all of the money he has raised. That doesn’t seem like a smart way to run a campaign, but what do I know? Giuliani continues to poll well, but it is not clear to me how he has spent 72% of his money–what has he been doing with it? Romney has been throwing money at advertising and organising in Iowa. Giuliani has been spending freely, but has actually lost ground relative to where he was five months ago. I stand by my predictions about the failures of their candidacies. My Duncan Hunter optimism was, shall we say, misplaced.
The wild card in all of this remains, obviously, the elusive non-candidate Fred, who now effectively ties Giuliani in national polls for the top spot in the field. Fred seems to fit, at least superficially, with what I said nine months ago:
Someone else, I don’t know who just yet, will be the nominee on the GOP side, and he will not fit the model of goopy Republican moderate now being praised as the path to victory.
Fred will probably make a boring-but-fine, conventional GOP nominee, a sort of “steady as she goes” tribute to boilerplate and stale ideas. No bold ideas or courageous stands–just a reassuring pat on the back from ol’ Fred as he drinks his lemonade on the porch. In electoral competitiveness, he will be Bob Dole with a drawl, but he’ll have charisma, too, which means he might get all of 40% of the vote. He will prove an acceptable fall guy for Republican defeat.