Top Thirty Errors That Doomed McCain
The results are in and the recriminations have begun. Sure, it might not have made any difference, but the number of sins of omission and commission by the McCain campaign is breathtaking. Let's get a head start on the finger-pointing and give you the top thirty mistakes John McCain and his team made:
- Not pursuing the Reverend Wright connection, as an issue of judgment and then credibility. Even Jerry Nadler knew it was a sign that Barack Obama lacked political courage, i.e., character.
- Waiting until September to raise Barack Obama's other troubling connections (e.g., Bill Ayers, Rashid Khalidi).
- Failing to devise a comprehensive economic message until the final weeks of the campaign.
- Failure to explain the Democrats' role in the financial meltdown.
- Not enough talk about "friends of Angelo" and Democratic corruption.
- Wasting his convention speech on "bipartisanship" and biography instead of pounding home a core economic message.
- Frittering away time and money in Iowa.
- Losing time in the spring when McCain had sewn up the nomination but Obama had not. An ideal time to begin defining the contrast in messages.
- Appallingly deficient "oppo" research and timing. Why didn't the "bankrupt the coal industry" tape come out before the final weekend?
- Going to war with the MSM without an effective plan to use alternate media to get their message out.
- Cutting off McCain's daily access to the traveling press corps.
- The frenetic response to the financial meltdown. (Fire Chris Cox! Cancel the debate -- no, hold the debate!) All that was missing was juggling knives on a tightrope above a fire pit.
- The roll-out of Sarah Palin.
- The internal trashing of Sarah Palin.
- The failure to put Sarah Palin on every radio and TV outlet they could find in the final two weeks of the campaign.
- The failure to find a top-flight economic advisor.
- Shutting down McCain's regular contact with new media outlets.
- An insufficiently tough attack on Joe Biden's lobbying and earmark activities.
- An insufficiently tough attack on Obama's coziness with the Daley machine.
- An insufficiently tough attack on Obama's ties and subservience to Big Labor.
- Failure to use McCain's position in the U.S. Senate to introduce legislation and force votes on the floor that would have defined the two candidates (e.g., a budget freeze).
- Permitting chaos and public fighting among campaign staff. Heads should have rolled.
- Waiting too long to introduce the specter of undivided government.
- Waiting until the final Saturday Night Live before the election to show self-deprecating humor.
- Not firing Palin's entire staff when they publicly trashed her.
- Insufficient registration and party-building efforts in Colorado and Virginia.
- Too much whining about the MSM.
- Too much hostility toward conservatives offering smart strategy and policy ideas.
- Not enough explanation and focus on Tony Rezko.
- Not enough explanation of the Herbert Hoover analogy (higher taxes and protectionism made the Great Depression worse) to a voting population that doesn't know who Hoover was.
There is no telling whether some or all of these errors made a difference. Certainly it was the toughest of years for Republicans. Nevertheless, the campaign was one of the worst displays of organizational and ideological disarray in recent memory. Future candidates should take note of the errors and the error-makers and plan their campaigns accordingly.