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McCain And The “Surge”

Roger Cohen repeats a meme that has been getting on my nerves, especially since McCain did better among antiwar voters than among supporters of the war, who voted for Romney in both New Hampshire and Michigan:

McCain was politically dead six months ago, his campaign undone by his backing of President Bush’s Iraq policy. His remarkable resurgence, which has put him in the lead among Republican candidates, according to recent polls, is one measure of the Iraq shift.

This first sentence is a complete media fantasy.  His campaign was undone by his support for the immigration bill last summer.  Opponents of the war in the mainstream press don’t like McCain’s position on the war and so conclude that this must be what has brought him down, but they are judging the war’s popularity by the entire population, continually neglecting to note that most Republicans still support it.  It wasn’t as if he was terribly popular with conservatives before the immigration bill, but that pushed a lot of people away from him and destroyed his status as the “next-in-line” nominee.  Also, his “remarkable resurgence” was tied to his victory in New Hampshire, which had to do with his personal popularity in New Hampshire that has endured since 2000 and his ability to attract independent voters.  Public opinion about the success of the “surge” hasn’t changed very much, so it is difficult to trace McCain’s resurgence to anything Iraq-related.  If his resurgence were a result of getting credit for his position on Iraq, he ought to be winning most of the war supporters rather than a plurality of the opponents, wouldn’t you say?

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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