By Patrick Appel
Ezra compares Dean in '04 with McCain in '08:
Among the Dean campaign's problems was that, as it inched ever closer to the nomination, it had to grow up. The maturity and savvy of their strategy had to equal their size. It didn't. And we're seeing the same problems in the McCain campaign. In 2000, McCain got pretty far by being a whole lot of fun. In 2008, he won by being human where Romney was robotic, and capable where Huckabee was entertaining. But while that may get you some good press coverage, and let you slip through a weak field, it's not enough to carry you through a general election. Stunts like this are cute, but they reflect the McCain campaign's broader problem: They just don't know what to do with their campaign. They don't know what message to offer, or advantage to play up, or attack to levy. They don't know how to counter the Obama campaign's capacity to control the new cycle and set their own narrative. Every day thus ends up being a new adventure, with a new message and a new take. That makes it a lot of fun, but it's not going to be enough.
If McCain can't do nuance, if he can't mature and modify his positions as the situation demands, then he is more captive to his ideological fixtures than I would have hoped. One can criticize Obama for being calculating, for changing his stance on issues for political gain, but most all of Obama's maneuvers over the last seven months have been politically deft. He has done his best to appeal to the largest swath of voters possible and, in doing so, has made me think that he would watch presidential popularity polls very closely and respond accordingly. Pandering to the electorate isn't as dangerous as dismissing it. Mr. 28 percent has taught us that much. On this front, McCain seems more of ideologue than Obama. McCain's campaign has shown a stubbornness in to responding to changing circumstances: for instance, not modifying his position on Iraq when Maliki explicitly endorsed a timetable for withdrawl, a strategy that is overwhelmingly supported by the American people.