Bob Dole is the presidential candidate to whom John McCain is most frequently (and unflatteringly) compared. But Ed Kilgore, responding to this piece I wrote in the current print issue about some of McCainland's dysfunctions, makes a different comparison: McCain's like John Kerry. Ed writes:
[I]t's clear McCain's back-from-the-grave nomination victory will tend to freeze the current campaign structure, leadership, strategy and message into place even if they aren't necessarily right for the general election. That, after all, is how John Kerry wound up going into the 2004 general election with a questionable campaign structure, leadership, strategy and message. At about this stage four years ago, I can remember some Kerry supporters muttering to each other things like: "How can you convince a candidate his campaign is making potentially fatal mistakes when he's just won the nomination after being left for dead?" I wonder if any McCainiacs are muttering similar things to each other today.
I think Ed makes a smart point. A related point I gleaned from my reporting is that after the campaign's summer '07 implosion, there weren't that many McCainiacs who thought their guy could possibly get the nomination, so they didn't spend much (or any) time thinking about how he should run in a general election. In a way, I think McCain's now a bit like Bill McKay, Robert Redford's character in The Candidate, who after being elected is famously left wondering, "What do we do now?"