John McCain’s comeback from loosing the nomination in 2000 and being so far down in this primary that people were talking about him dropping out before Iowa because he didn’t even have the money to gas up the Straight Talk Express to now having won New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida and the presumed winner out of Super Tuesday is nothing short of amazing. It shows what an incredibly strong candidate he is — and has been all along.
The thing that this determined comeback suggest is that McCain was the rightful Republican candidate in 2000. He had the potential to be a national and a unifying candidate. And were in not for the balls to the wall tactics of Karl Rove, he would have been.
Not just that: Al Gore was the anointed successor to a President Clinton leaving office one of the most popular in history, at the end of the longest uninterrupted economic expansion in history. By all rights, Al Gore should have been the 43rd President of the United States.
And for all his weaknesses, John Kerry was running against what was widely perceived at the time to be a sure looser. If you look at George W. Bush, Jr.’s approval ratings, they had dropped below half well before the 2004 election. He had a loosing war and a weak economy on his hands. He was a draft-dodger running against a purple-hear winner. But then, late in 2004 he bumped slightly above 50 percent and won a second term by one of the narrowest margins in hstory.
The thing that strikes me, seeing how tough a contender John McCain is, is that Karl Rove is the most awesome political strategist of his generation.
As bitter as John McCain must be at Mr. Rove, if he gets the nomination — or whoever gets it — they should beg, borrow and steal to get him to at least consult on their campaign. He may be tainted, but he is like the giant Antaeus from Greek mythology: since he draws his power from sleaze, the further into the mud he gets ground, the stronger he becomes.
Afterthought: Karl Rove is the highest attainment of sophistry: three times he has made the weaker argument appear the stronger to world-historical consequences.