To paraphrase Bob Dylan, it’s not dark yet for John McCain‘s White House hopes, but it’s getting there.
In 2000, McCain’s unorthodox insurgency campaign very nearly sent George W. Bush limping back to Austin. Now, he’s sifting through the ruins of what was supposed to be a coronation, and Washington, D.C., has officially entered into a McCain Death Watch. “He’s cooked,” one veteran Republican operative tells Radar. Politico and the New York Times are skewering the focus and planning of McCain’s campaign. Now, the question is a simple one: How did this happen?
One need only recall an early summer morning in 2004, the day Captain Straight Talk turned down an offer from presumptive Democratic nominee John Kerry. Kerry, a fellow Vietnam vet, and one of McCain’s closest friends in the Senate, wanted his pal to join him on a bipartisan Unity Ticket. A vice presidential slot seemed like a natural fit considering McCain’s familiarity with Kerry, his contrarian ways, and his long-standing feud with President Bush. “Senator McCain never seriously considered joining Senator Kerry’s ticket,” a rep for McCain’s ’08 campaign says. But one veteran political operative with ties to both men (who, because of involvements with an ongoing campaign, asked for anonymity) says Kerry’s courtship, though dismissed in ensuing years as old friends throwing out ideas, was a lot more serious than either man let on.
“They talked about it, their people talked about it, and it was closer to happening than anybody thinks. But in the end, [McCain] couldn’t pull the trigger. He outsmarted himself.” This, as the source puts it, was the pivotal moment when “John McCain stopped being John McCain.”