Jewish World Review Feb. 7, 2008 / 1 Adar I 5768
McCain crowned now what?
By Roger Simon
He is certainly the undisputed Republican front-runner. But how does he spend the crucial weeks and months ahead?
Does he try to win over Republican conservatives who still distrust him in order to build a strong foundation within his own party?
Or does he make overtures to moderate and independent voters, those people who might be the margin of victory in November against the Democratic nominee?
To grapple with these and other questions, I have once again assembled my all-star Republican panel, which contains voices from different wings of the party.
None has endorsed a presidential candidate.
Greg Mueller was a senior adviser to Pat Buchanan and Steve Forbes in their presidential campaigns and is an expert on conservative politics.
He says McCain should spend his time lashing out against the Democrats, even without knowing who the Democratic nominee will be.
"It is Politics 101: Define your opponents," Mueller said.
"McCain needs to get out there and define Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama as being to the far left of American politics."
How does McCain do that?
"McCain needs to talk about how Clinton and Obama want to raise taxes, institute socialized medicine and surrender on the war on terror," Mueller said.
"McCain has to get basic conservatives enthusiastic about him."
But Mueller also had a caveat.
"It would be a big, big mistake for McCain to take the conservative community for granted just because he will be running against Hillary or Obama," Mueller said.
"He needs to get the party together before the convention, and he can't waste any time."
Mueller believes that if McCain lacks an "energized and enthusiastic base," he could be giving up 2 to 3 percentage points in a general election, and that could be the difference between victory and defeat.
"I am not saying McCain has to pander and grovel," Mueller said. "But the conservative base is made up of those people who go out and knock on doors and make phone calls for the nominee. You need their enthusiastic support to win."
Dan Schnur was McCain's communications director in 2000 and is now a political consultant in California.
He believes that a protracted battle between Clinton and Obama will be good for McCain.
"The longer the Clinton-Obama battle goes on, the longer time McCain has to shore up his base in the Republican Party," Schnur said.
"Until there is a Democratic nominee, McCain doesn't have to spend nearly as much time going after centrists."
Schnur says McCain has three tasks in the weeks ahead.
"First, he needs to pick a running mate," Schnur said. "Second, he has to campaign hard on national security, because national security is his strong point and the point that brings him closest to the Republican base."
And third, Schnur said, McCain has to sit back and enjoy a whole bunch of negative ads directed against Democrats by unregulated political groups known as 527s groups that McCain has opposed in the past.
"The 527s are going to eviscerate the Democrats and remind people how horrible the Democrats are going to be for the country," Schnur said.
"Yes, McCain has spent a lot of time castigating the 527s in the past, but now he will benefit from them."
Ken Duberstein was Ronald Reagan's chief of staff from 1988 to 1989 and deputy under secretary of labor for Gerald Ford.
Duberstein is very well-connected within the Republican Party.
"McCain is already starting to pull the Republican Party together, with the exception of the radio talk-show wing," Duberstein said.
"And sometimes that wing uses controversy to build listenership. The fact is that John McCain is uniting the Republican Party."
Duberstein went on: "People seem to be looking for candidates who can govern. We are through with simply appealing to the base. McCain is trying to reach out to independents, weak Republicans, weak Democrats and conservative Democrats to put together a new governing coalition that is less confrontational."
Duberstein believes McCain's success thus far is a good sign for Republican chances in November.
"People are saying that Washington doesn't work, we have to fix it somehow, and they are looking for people to get the job done," Duberstein said.
"McCain has shown the ability to reach across the aisle and get things done."
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© 2008, Creators Syndicate