John McCain brought a classless campaign to a dignified close last Tuesday night, though his supporters remained obstinately disrespectful. While the media will now undoubtably be scrambling for stories to fill the void the end of the two-year campaign has brought, I would like to offer my own epitaph to the most exciting political campaign in recent history.
McCain lost for three main reasons. He was off-message, he was negative and he made poor decisions.
Analysts can argue race or gender until they are blue in the face, but McCain lost because Barack Obama stayed on message and he did not. From day one of his campaign, Obama was the candidate of change while McCain tried to reinvent himself more times than Cher. This misstep gave the Obama campaign power and his supporters a banner under which to gather.
McCain was also mistaken in thinking Americans would find derogatory campaign ads appealing. The Paris Hilton ad he ran was juvenile and did not do anything to strengthen his campaign.
All the mistakes could have been negated by a good vice-presidential selection. But instead of picking someone like a Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty, he chose Sarah Palin, a novice governor with no national experience to her name. Instead of beefing up his economic standards, he picked a woman, hoping to cater to Hillary Clinton voters.
What McCain failed to understand is the most ardent Clinton supporters were women who were pro-choice feminists with true democratic ideals. He was a fool to think he could court them by choosing a candidate so drastically underqualified.
Some also argued Clinton did such damage to Obama during the primaries that she practically handed McCain the presidency. While the Democratic primary was unusually vicious, McCain made no effort to pounce on this show of disunity. Frankly, Clinton tested Obama far more than McCain did and that cost him the election.
He also lacked the campaign machine Obama developed. An admitted technophobe, he began the shift toward online campaigning too late. Long after Obama was texting his supporters on a regular basis, McCain finally began a widespread e-mail campaign.
Could he have won? It’s possible. If he had spent the month after his nomination brushing up on economic policy and hammering away on both Clinton and Obama, he could have established a strong foothold for the general election. Instead he vacationed while Clinton and Obama duked it out, and now he is retiring into obscurity while Obama becomes the 44th president.
Libby Davis is a sophomore news-editorial journalism major from Coppell.