Why Not Having an Opponent is Bad for McCain

After Huckabee’s not-surprising losses in Ohio and Texas earlier this week, he withdrew from the GOP Primary, leaving the field open for McCain to be nominated at the convention later in the summer.  It was a big victory for McCain (although his real victory in the primary came on Super Tuesday), but from a strategic standpoint, I think this will be more negative for the McCain campaign than positive.

This issue boils down to the fact that McCain needed Huckabee (or anyone for that matter) to make him relevant.  McCain is about the most uncharasmatic guy the GOP could put  up at this point, and he will easily fade from the spotlight over the next few months, while all of the focus will remain on the Democrats’ heated race, which will continue until their convention.  McCain may as well go on vacation, because the media will essentially forget he exists, barring some major development of him actually becoming interesting. 

Now, the positive thing for Team McCain and the GOP is that he is wide open to do nothing except raise money and gain support from rank and file Republicans.  This is the most positive thing about McCain’s situation, because he really does need some time to cultivate his support within the GOP.  The catch, however, is that he needs someone to argue with, in order to do that.  He needs to be able to stay in the spotlight, pushing his agenda and getting his message out there, in order for the Republicans to know he still exists. 

Many GOPers at this point have the attitude of, “Well, it looks like John McCain won … back to things that actually interest me.”  They have no interest in this race anymore, because there is nothing there to make them interested.  There are no more primary races (to speak of, at least), no more debates, no more need for expensive airtime, etc.  The only thing McCain can really do at this point is continue touring the states that the GOP will need in November and cultivate positive relationships with voters in those areas. 

Another major negative for McCain when voters have that attitude is that GOP turnout will likely suffer for it.  There are already enough Republicans throughout the U.S. that are not crazy about John McCain – many of them will stay at home on Election Day, especially those who are not constantly reminded and encouraged to vote by a heated race.

Sure, the race will undoubtedly get heated again once the Democrats nominate their guy/gal, and the good thing for McCain is that he will have had a number of months to do nothing but raise money and speak to voters, but the driving factor in these races is the media and McCain is going to have to get used to being out of the spotlight until the Democratics either decide who their candidate will be or kill each other.  Some argue that this time will be used to build momentum; I argue that he will not be able to build momentum on his own. 

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