John McCain, maverick survivor
In 2009, if you had asked the Tea Party movement regulars who their most hated Republican was the answer would have been John McCain in a landslide. For years, McCain has been the man much of the Republican conservative base loved to hate, thanks to his 2000 presidential run and his apostasy on campaign finance and other issues. Movement conservatives discussed a primary campaign in 2004. McCain’s losing the presidential race to Obama didn’t help his popularity one bit.
And yet, in this anti-incumbent tidal wave, where Republican incumbents and party regular front-runners (such as in Delaware, Nevada, Colorado) were taken down in record number, John McCain survived. Why?
Maybe because he knew he would be a target, or perhaps because he is more attuned to the danger, McCain acted differently than the other officials. He tacked hard to the right, ignoring a torrent of criticisms from his what he use to call his “base” – the media. He immediately took the fight to his opponent, going very negative, very fast. He called in chits – including an endorsement from Sarah Palin. The result was a crushing victory over a very well-known conservative. What’s surprising is not that McCain succeeded, it’s that others like Murkowski and Castle didn’t take notes.
Joshua Spivak is a PR executive and senior fellow at the Hugh L. Carey Institute for Government Reform at Wagner College.