Friday, June 20, 2008

McCain's 527 Mistake

Early on in this campaign John McCain railed against 527 groups and similar groups which organize and raise money to advocate for a candidate. His harsh rhetoric toward them could have a devastating affect on his election chances in the fall.

In modern politics 527 groups are essential to win on the national level. This is because of the new Federal Campaign finance laws that prohibit the actual candidates from raising a lot of money from individuals. But 527s don't have such harsh restrictions so they can raise tons of money, get out an effective message, and if desirable not be directly linked to the campaign they are advocating for.

To show the importance of these groups we need only go back to 2004 where President Bush wanted to paint John Kerry as a flip flopper. In politics it is hard to paint your opponent as something because he gets to respond and the American people don't take politicians words as gospel. But President Bush knew how important it was to have Kerry be a flip flopper in an election based on who you trust with the country's national security. The successful portrayal of Kerry as a flip flopper was due to three things. First he said all in one statement on audio that he voted for the 87 billion dollars to fund our troops before he voted against it. Then next part of the puzzle was the famous windsurfing ad that allowed the public to see this statement as a flip flop in an entertaining way. The most third and crucial part was groundwork that was laid by a 527 group known as the swiftboaters. Kerry ran on his military experience in Vietnam to show him as a capable steward of the country's security, but the group of soldiers who were with him came out with ads contradicting his accounts of his time in Vietnam. This set up the idea in many Americans heads that he wasn't completely honest, and the windsurfing ad that aired later was the tipping point made which was only made possible by the earlier swiftboat ads.

Back to 2008 an article on the Politico reports on the lack of 527 groups on the Republican side ready to launch an attack on Obama. It's reported that big Republican donors that created groups to help President Bush attack John Kerry are reluctant because of fear that John McCain will denounce their efforts and publicly come out against them in the heat of the election season. For McCain this is very bad. He might have already committed political suicide that is like a poison that takes a long time to start working. Without an attack machine to define Barack Obama, Obama can create any image of himself and deliver it to the American people without any response. Without the flip flopper image of Kerry in 2004, Kerry might have been able to overcome the President's tiny margin of victory in Ohio and won the election. Likewise if Obama's negatives and liberal appearance numbers aren't up very high come November he may be able to to squeak out a victory in key states.

There is still time for a big Republican 527 to hit the scene, but it' hard to tell if any are in the works or not. McCain's possible presidency might depend on one.

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