Q. How can embrace of a given policy "stall" a candidate's campaign if it helps him with the voters?
A. If the policy in question is the Bush administration's Iraq war plan, and the MSM finds it difficult to admit that support for it can be an electoral plus.
As NewsBuster Geoffrey Dickens and I have noted here and here, NBC reporters, notably including Andrea Mitchell and David Gregory, have repeatedly explained McCain's weak standing in the GOP primary polls by his support of the Iraq war.
The truth, of course, is just the opposite. Republicans are less than enthusiastic about McCain because of his embrace of non-conservative positions on everything from campaign finance to taxes to immigration. It is only McCain's support of the Iraq war that is keeping him afloat in the GOP primaries. Ditch that, and McCain would soon find himself in Chuck Hagel territory -- out of the race altogether.
On this morning's "Today," NBC's Norah O'Donnell impossibly played things both ways, claiming:
McCain's candidacy has stalled with his embrace of President Bush's Iraq war strategy. But one plus for McCain's support of the increased troop surge is that it does play well among Republican voters.
View video here.
Well, "Republican voters" do tend to be the people voting in Republican primaries. So how has McCain's support for the war "stalled" his candidacy? Among MSM primary voters, perhaps?
Later in the first half-hour, conservative commentator Bill Bennett, interviewed by Matt Lauer, made the best case possible for McCain, theorizing that his support for the war can help him with voters at large, and may not hurt him even if things don't go well:
BILL BENNETT: He's running as a conviction politician. You know, the rap used to be "weather-vane McCain;" you can't say that about McCain now. He's running on victory in this war, which is increasingly unpopular with many Americans. So he's running on conviction. How that plays out in the end remains to be seen. Remember, Eisenhower -- if I can do a little history -- was also not popular with a lot of the conservatives, as John McCain is not, but people decided they needed Ike for the situation, again a war [Korea].
MATT LAUER: But Bill, the problem is, isn't it, that he's turned over his fate to the news cycle. By hitching his wagon to this war and support for the president, he is completely reliant on how things go in Iraq. If there's a bad day, week or month, he's going to ride the polls down with that.
BENNETT: If it's a good result, he's obviously in good shape. If it's a bad result, I'm not sure he's in bad shape. Let me tell you why. I don't think the American people will punish a conviction politician, a guy who stands up and says 'I wanted victory in Iraq, we didn't get victory in Iraq,' I don't think he'll be punished for it. I think that as he makes the distinction that he'd rather lose the election than lose the war, the American people in the long run, and this is a long run, I think will reward him for that.
Mark was in Iraq in November. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org