Blogs > HNN > Will McCain Have an October Surprise?

Oct 30, 2008 10:39 am

Will McCain Have an October Surprise?

Francis Fukuyama, one of the original neocons, has announced his support of Barack Obama for president in the current issue of The American Conservative magazine, criticizing McCain for his erratic temper, lack of principle, and adherence to outworn
“Reaganite verities” while praising Obama for being “better positioned to reinvent the American model and . . . present a very different and more positive face of America to the rest of the world.” His is just one of a string of high-profile Republican and/or conservative endorsements: Colin Powell, Christopher Buckley, C.C. Goldwater, Julie Nixon Eisenhower, Scott McClellan, Ken Adelman, and many others.

Madison Powers in CQ Politics observes:
“The growing list includes Republicans who were governors, senators, congressmen, cabinet officials, military leaders, corporate directors, and even some stodgy old newspaper editors. They are serious people, genuinely concerned about the future of the country, and they are not much given to fads and fluff.

“In short, the rank and file of defectors are not merely the Republican party irregulars who are, in reality, the party regulars of the much maligned Georgetown cocktail circuit. Nor can this phenomenon be explained as some sort of mass, late-life ideological epiphany.

“What is most striking about these high-visibility defections is that overwhelmingly they come with ringing endorsements. They speak to Obama’s skills, abilities, and temperament. Everywhere, except in the occasional tepid endorsement such as the one in the Washington Post, the precipitating factors may be the lead line, but the bulk of these statements is taken up by extraordinary praise for Obama.”

What other notable conservative endorsement might follow? Will McCain’s October surprise be a Halloween announcement by President George W. Bush that he supports Obama? In that case, Obama will no longer be able to link McCain with Bush. On the other hand, Obama might have an October surprise of his own: perhaps McCain’s mother will announce for him.

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Barry Elson - 11/3/2008

Vice President Cheney's endorsement of McCain ends the speculation that Bush would endorse Obama as a means of bolstering McCain's maverick claim.

But can any President actually remain a maverick once elected? Won't he need the support of at least his own Party to get Congress to pass his programs and budgets?

Moreover, a President must rely on his Executive Branch agencies and departments to implement his policy positions. The President gets to appoint only some of the over 9,000 civil service political leadership and support positions, known as "political plums." (You can find a list of these job opportunities by googling "Plum Book" on According to the OPM web site, "These positions include agency heads and their immediate subordinates, policy executives and advisors, and aides who report to these officials."

Most plums are filled by people recommended by VIPs in the President's Party. In McCain's case, would not those VIPs be the same conservative Republican lobbyists and politicos who prevented him from selecting Sen. Lieberman as his Vice President? Would they not draw their appointments from the same pool of incompetents that the Bush administration used? People such as Michael D. Brown, head of FEMA at the time of Hurricane Katrina, and Monica Goodling, aide to former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who admitted to "crossing the line" in vetting the political loyalties of candidates for positions as career federal prosecutors. Although McCain the maverick might want to move toward the political middle, would the people under him implement the policy differently than they did under Bush?

Oscar Chamberlain - 10/30/2008

Barack Obama is a singularly interesting person. However, I am beginning to wonder if the chance that he has indicates a broader reallignment. If so the Republican loss of the "Georgetown cocktail circuit" is a sign of something larger.

It is a sign that Republican populism may finally be floundering a bit because its anti-inellectual pose has now become much of its substance as opposed to being part of a larger coalition-building strategy.

Such floundering does not guarantee an Obama victory by any means. Rick Shenkman might well point out that this is smart politics in a traditionally anti-intellectual populace. And he might be right.

However, populism need not be stupid. While I thought many of Reagan's policies were wrong, they generally were astute, given his beliefs. Political liberalism needed an intellegent challenge, and there were a lot of intelligent people out there, including both evangelicals and plumbers, who joined that challenge.

However, while these Republicans remain suspicious of intellectuals pandering to them (one of the reasons that McCain may still win), many of these same peole do see that Obama and many of the Democrats are trying to address our domestic problems in a range of substantive and thoughtful ways. They don't agree with all aspects of those ways (another reason that McCain may still win), but with Bush, they have seen what happens when rigidity becomes a substitute for thoughtful reaction and the pursuit of ignorance becomes a policy in itself.

Put differently, they have seen what happens when conservative pandering becomes policy in itself.

To the extent that McCain seems rigid or thoughtlessly reactive because his anti-intellectual party seems that way, they may be driven away from the Republicans and not simply for this one election.

If so, then even an Obama defeat might mark major step in this reallignment, unless a President McCain were to move sharply away from the current Republican form of populism that he has made the core of his campaign.