Deja Vu: McCain 08 looks a lot like Kerry 04

I have been incredibly busy this cycle with all sorts of projects (interesting, few in politics), but watching the news has me feeling a little like a prognosticator when watching the sequence of events that have happened this cycle and last one.

The New York Times posted the article, “In Loose Style, McCain Leads a Camp Divided” where the discussion of the candidate, true to his persona, does things his way, and is found (at times) to be at odds with his staff or consultants. Even with the obligatory staff shakeup back in July, he is still finding the challenge of playing himself versus what the pundits, pollsters and consultants want him to be.

This has so many shades of the Kerry 04 campaign, it makes me cringe. In the beginning, we had two (or seven, depending on whose article you read) separate camps running the campaign when I joined, and the culture aptly demonstrated this. As the campaign was floundering, the hits that the staff regularly took with comments from people we assumed were more knowledgeable, all of which gave the teams a siege mentality. And when we emerged to the fore, there was a feeling of correctness and direction that still was fought from the inside to the outside.

Even with the inclusion of Mary Beth Cahill (one of my favorite leaders), the Washington, DC faction and the Boston faction were often at competing odds for the heart and mind of the campaign, let alone the New York faction. In McCain’s situation, I assume he is faced with a similar issue – but in his case, his own point-of-view, moral compass is working hard to frame the discussion in his own mind. A leader who has had to listen to feedback and make a decision that he believes is right, faced with a national campaign where the choices are a matter of hues – that is a challenge as well.

I do not like predictions on campaigns, but the way I see this campaign going – especially with the infrastructure and organization the Obama Campaign has pushed forward, I see a poor showing for McCain – even with an October Surprise.

But a word of caution to the Obama Camp: do not start making measurements yet. That was the undoing of the Kerry Campaign – and cost us the hearts and minds of hundreds of thousands of people who would have voted if it was not “inevitable”. An old friend told me, a Presidential Election is a marathon, not a sprint. You guys just went through the most grueling part of the marathon and are now in the summer glide. We have a couple of weeks, if not days, before you have another uphill climb. Prepare for it.

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