John McCain stepped over the mystical threshold of 1,191 delegate votes needed to secure the Republican nomination last night. Mike Huckabee, his last vocal competitor, dropped out of the race. It was a victory to be sure, but it lasted approximately 37 seconds. By the time McCain left the stage, he was in an entirely new phase of the campaign, for better — or worse.
- First, the good: according to a Pew Research study just released, "Overall, 20% of white Democratic voters say they would vote for McCain if Obama is the Democratic nominee. That is twice the percentage of white Democrats who say they would support McCain in a Clinton-McCain matchup." So although Obama is far from assured, McCain still enjoys the dangled carrot of defecting Democrats.
- McCain has to make a big decision now, re: the company he keeps. President Bush is expected to give his endorsement of McCain this morning. It's a dicey proposition to balance, given Bush's 19 percent approval rating. McCain has not hinged his platform on embracing nor rebuking the current administration, but potential voters may. Al Gore faced a similar dilemma in 2000, deciding whether to shake the scandals of his former boss, or enjoy the glow and credit for the good. His distance seemed petty at the time. What's McCain to do? Can he be a maverick and a party man all at once? Is now the time to accept the endorsement, while there's still time to forget it?
- Now that he's the nominee McCain has to balance the sum between malaise and scrutiny. It will be open season on John McCain — while whoever becomes the Democratic nominee gets to skate on by for a little longer. Adding to the protection of not yet being the nominee, is the excitement surrounding the Democratic race. How can John McCain compete with that? He's a fine speaker, but he only gives one kind of speech — can that hold voters' interests until election day? How can he remain both relevant and intact?
- The Veep? Okay. It's on. Let the rumors fly! Who's going to be the #2? I'll be accepting your short lists in the comments!