But there is a very strange air about Republican operatives. In the last three weeks, I’ve talked to real insiders in VA, GA, AL and here. They all remind me of a unit waiting to cross the line of departure on an attack. Quiet, determined, last cigarette, last “can of peaches out of the ration,” radio checks, confident. They all use the term “safely nominated” when referring to Obama. That is weird.
Now, Johnson is a rabidly partisan border line nutcase with a long history of hysterical exaggeration, but I had been thinking along those lines myself, wondering about the McCain campaign. There have been complaints that the campaign hasn’t, until very recently, really hit at Senator Obama, especially a few months ago right after Obama became the presumptive nominee. I leaned in that direction myself. But now I wonder if it’s not working out better for Senator McCain to have held his fire. The team might well have thought Obama was a weaker candidate than Senator Clinton and held off because they didn’t want to break him before he was “safely nominated”. Yes, he could (in theory) get dumped after nomination, but that would be such a disaster that McCain would cruise to victory regardless of who was picked as a replacement.
Holding back also means that good lines of attack weren’t burnt out as “old news”, a factor that anyone who’s gone up against the Clinton Machine would take seriously. And, of course, politicallly advertising that goes on before the conventions is not trivial, but it’s not of much significance either so foregoing it is a minor loss that (in the opinion of the McCain leadership cadre) wasn’t worth the risk of not having Obama as the nominee.
It could be that McCain just got lucky, and made a virtue of necessity, but if he didn’t, then credit where credit is due. I think that should he win, the post facto commentators will laud this event sequence as brilliant strategy.