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Where's the 'real' John McCain?

  • Matthew Price
  • 26 Oct 08, 04:23 AM GMT

It's obvious things are going wrong in the McCain-Palin camp, as this suggests.

It's looked obvious for some days now, or weeks rather. Ever since I sat in Invesco Stadium in Denver at the end of the Democratic Convention and realised how well run the Obama campaign has been, it has struck me how poorly run the McCain campaign appears in comparison.

They have not had the electoral cycle on their side - few would bet heavily against a Democratic win after eight years of an unpopular Republican president (as a side issue, is George W Bush the biggest loser of the election? No-one will stand up for him in any way. Not even Sarah Palin).

Nor have they had the money on their side.

And they have been running against a man who many see as one of the most inspiring figures in politics for decades.

But I can't help feeling that McCain and Palin have been done an injustice.

Few that I meet - who have either met John McCain or merely watched him from afar - think anything other than good about him.

He strikes me as a decent and honorable politician, a good man, wanting to do the best for his country.

Palin is more of an unknown quantity, but she is clearly a savvy politician who - contrary to her self-nurtured image - has been wondering about projecting herself onto the national stage for a short while.

She is also a politician who perhaps - if we are to believe the latest insider talk - feels let down by the machine around her.

And that, I sense, is something both John McCain and Sarah Palin share.

Neither appears totally comfortable with the way the campaign is being run. We haven't seen the "real" John McCain in ages.

He didn't stick with what made him special and different in Washington, the fact that he would speak his mind whatever the consequences and BE HIMSELF.

Does this say something about him?

Headlines such as "McCain team forms circular firing squad" to me speak less about divisions within the team, and more about leadership of the team.

Yes, perhaps the Republican "system" forced him into a corner on his VP pick, or on the subtleties of campaign strategy.

But if he truly is the maverick outsider, who fights for what he believes in, would he allow himself to be beaten into a position he didn't like?

What if he had gone for a VP pick that was less popular with the Republican base?

That would have proved he was his own man, and in an election that seems to be driven by a nation's desire for wholesale change, that might have helped him enter the last week in a better state than he seems to be.

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