06 November 2008

Why Did John McCain Lose?

For the next few days, weeks, months . . . and in the case of this historic election . . . years, "experts" will pour over exit polls and demographics like maggots on days-old dung to explain why John McCain lost (and yes, I felt the need to use the word "maggot" today . . . and yes, I will focus on why McCain lost rather than Obama's win because of the type of uphill battle the republican had . . . and yes I will keep using ellipses . . . does this trouble you?).

You'll hear lots of explanations for the outcome. Like, oh, for example:

  • People were angry at Dubya. True, but then you have yo ask yourself why couldn't McCain convince independents and centrist democrats of the very thing that had conservative republicans threatening to hit the poles instead of the polls . . . primarily the fact that McCain was far from being Bush?
  • Sarah Palin was a bad choice. Listen, if Dan Quayle didn't cost Papa Bush his first election, then don't fool yourself into blaming Palin (unless you're a McCain advisor trying to commit career suicide by attacking a now powerful Republican voice). Examine the people who hate Palin or said that they wouldn't vote for McCain because of her . . . they were either going to vote for Obama anyway or they have the reasoning faculties of a rusted lawn chair. According to the exit polls referenced on CNN, among those who think a Vice President actually matters Palin probably pulled in an extra 3 or 4 points for Mac. But for most people the VP choice just doesn't mean much. No American President has ever won or lost an election based on their Veep.
  • The mainstream media was in the tank for Obama. There is no doubt that it's true. For the sake of argument, let's skip the fact that, oh around 80% of them vote democratic and that Katie Couric keeps the cold shower running after an Obama interview. Instead let's look at undeniable facts . . . network expenditures. Brit Hume (who would never lie) produced numbers on the amount of money each network spent following the candidates and the number was around 3 to 1 in favor of Obama. In fact, even the "conservative" FoxNews spent more money following Obama than McCain. But does it really matter? Republicans have overcome the media in the past. The mainstream press hates Dubya and he was elected . . . twice.
  • Americans wanted to vote for an African American. For some this is true. When I went into work on election day a white colleague of mine was smiling ear-to-ear and when I asked her how she was doing she said, "Fantastic! We're going to elect our first black president!" Interesting . . . she didn't say "a democrat in the White House" or "a liberal behind the country's wheel" or even "somebody who isn't named Bush." Her first inclination was to identify Obama by pigmentation. So yes, everyone knew he would carry the black vote, which tends to be largely monolithic anyway (excepting mavericks like Neo and 'Zo), and that he would draw in white-guilt sufferers, but seeing color they would have voted democratic anyway. So I doubt the color of his skin did anything beyond proving that America is not a racist country . . . or it never could have elected a black man with little experience and ties to William Ayers and several anti-Semitic friends and organizations.
  • Ohio Sucks. The Buckeye state went blue and no Republican has ever won the presidency without Ohio. But this is a symptom rather than a cause.

Yes, you'll read all sorts of reason as to why the election went the way that it did, with each day finding a new "expert" searching for a different angle. Was it McCain's age? Did the GOP leave their conservative values? Was it ACORN enhanced voter fraud? How about the death of Obama's grandma? Biden's saucy hair plugs? A heavy Venusian body-snatching turnout? But don't be fooled. There is one reason and one reason alone why Obama won. And it is as simple as it is obvious.


When Barack Obama decided to renege on his agreement to public funding he won the election.

Before securing the Democratic nomination, Obama told the world "If I am the Democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election." Hillary Clinton and John McCain made the same commitment. The difference is that, John McCain kept his word (and something tells me that Hillary would have as well)

As the WSJ put it, by flip-flopping on public funding, Obama "probably dealt a death-blow to the cause of campaign-finance reform." You see, in keeping his promise, John McCain decided to adhere to the financing restrictions so he had spending limits and could not accept private donations after 1 September - the official start of the campaign. In breaking his promise Obama was swimming in cash, collecting about as much as Bush and Kerry combined in the last election . . . leading to blech-fest infomercials and campaign ads at levels that have never been seen before. Sure, McCain put out ads distancing himself from Bush, blaming Fannie & Freddie on the Democrats and explaining his own policies . . . but they were drown out by the deluge of Obama spots that only the gobs of money collected outside of public finance restrictions could have bankrolled.

So Barack Obama's financial pledge reversal had two effects:

1) Obama won the election.

2) Campaign Finance agreements between the parties are gone forever. I doubt any future candidate will accept the restrictions of Public Finance or trust the word of their opponent when it comes to money. . . so expect the 2012 election to see more Benjis than a scruffy K-9 film revival . . . and expect lots of future ellipses from The Khaki Elephant


  1. E. Rapp said...

    I agree with everything except the "Ohio Sucks" part. Obama probably had people bused in from Detroit to vote for him several times in different precincts.

    Also I just don't think McCain was that strong a candidate. He spent the last eight years alienating the Republican base by being a thorn in Bush's side. When you look back on it, he won the primaries in a field of very weak competitors. None of them was strongly conservative except for maybe Huckabee, who was too unknown and underfinanced to really compete. Thompson might have been good, but he obviously didn't take it very seriously. In the end, McCain won the nomination almost by default, kind of the way John Kerry did amongst the Democrats in 2004. Still, with everything going against him, he did surprising well. Nearly half the country voted for him.

  2. WomanHonorThyself said...

    wer'e in for a bumpy ride hun..fasten your seatbelts!!

  3. Anonymous said...

    Everything you said here is true. But we should also consider that there were more people voting against Barack Obama than they were for John McCain. We conservatives have a lot of work ahead of us. I recall that this country would not have been blessed with Ronald Reagan were it not for Jimmy Carter. Let us hope that Obama will not completely destroy our country before we can get our heads wired for the next election.

    According to my calculations, only 39% of the American people voted. Of those, 21% elected Barack Obama, whose victory was far from a popular mandate. Conservatives should build on that, but we also require a conservative leader (more than a maverick) who will galvanize conservatives and moderates around traditional principles. We might also insist on truthful politics. Barack Obama is not a Democrat: he is a Marxist. Now there are those who may accuse me of partisanship, they may claim that such accusations are unfair and inappropriate—but the fact is, it is impossible to turn the truth into a lie. He is what he is, and we shouldn’t hesitate to call it the way we see it.

  4. Daniel C. said...

    I agree that money is the elephant in the room that makes everything else moot. It was foolish for McCain to make such an unconditional agreement in the first place, but then the campaign finance law has his name on it.

    It's fitting that McCain was foiled by his own departure from Republican principles. He never earned the support of the base during the primaries, so he was forced to spend time and resources doing that during the general election with Palin.

    To prevent this disaster next time, the GOP should consider sticking to closed primaries, or at least giving these more delegates, so we don't get stuck with a nominee that the party doesn't support 100%.

  5. M.A. said...

    I thought Palin was a great choice. She did probably pull in the 3 to 4 percent. But the media hatchet job probably led to a greater loss in the end. It's not Palin's fault. She was a great pick, but the (inaccurate) smear stories by the media started from Day 1. Unfortunately, I think this would have happened to whoever McCain picked.

    I would say the loss was because 1) the media 2) failure of McCain to address Wright, and others 3) African-Americans (and others) blindly pulling the lever for Obama because they were swept up in the idea of the first black President.

  6. Khaki Elephant said...

    e.rapp, I agree that the GOP seemed a bit adrift. And as far as the Conservative vote, I'd say the Huckabee/Romney split had an impact. But given the finanacial disparity I think it would have been a tough, tough battle for anybody.

    WHT, and I'd recommend helmets as well. Here we go.

    Mustang, I agree that there really is an opportunity here. The loss of the White and country wide elections is a wake-up call that allows for new leadership in the party. With hard work we can remake this country in 2-years and provide a revolution (a la Reagan) in 4 years. Wow, was I just tempted to say, "Yes we can"? Anyway, I think your calculations are correct which means this defeat can lead to a greater victory. And as for the Marxist, in 4 years I suspect we will have executive proof.

    Daniel, thanks for stopping by with excellent points. And I almost wonder if the Republicans had too many qualified candidates. McCain, Romney, Huckabee, Guiliani, Thompson . . . it's great to have so much leadership (and I actually like the diversity as well), but it was tough to bring the party together afterward. As you said, McCain had to spend the general election asking for votes that he should have secured during the primaries. A lot of time wasted.

  7. Khaki Elephant said...

    M.A., I have to say that I'm torn on the Rev. Wright issue. I like the fact that McCain showed integrity and stuck to his word that he would not use it in the election (like he stuck to his word on public finance). It was honorable, and regardless of all other factors, I believe that as a child and life-long servant of America's military, John McCain is an honorable man.

    On the other side I have to question why he gave his word on this. Rev. Wright is a legit issue. Obama was there 20 years with an anti-Semitic, America hating racist. That is a REAL issue!