GOP Doom Watch

Michael Gerson:

The style and approach of general election campaigns are often conditioned by the method of victory in the primaries. The Obama team ends the season like a battle-worn Army division -- organized, relentless and skilled at fundraising, registering voters and getting them to the polls. Members of the McCain team feel more like survivors of a near-death experience -- convinced that the virtues of their candidate and the blessings of the political gods matter more than the money, phone banks and door-knocking of traditional politics.

This worries some Republican strategists. One recently described the McCain campaign to me as the political equivalent of a Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland movie: Every morning a few guys get together and say, "Let's put on a show!" McCain's state campaign organizations, coalition outreach and get-out-the-vote efforts are weak or nonexistent. But McCain campaign officials are convinced that they will win -- if they win -- in a different manner than the methodical Bush campaigns of 2000 and 2004. McCain will either catch fire, or he won't -- and traditional efforts to boost turnout, in this view, are not likely to make the difference. Given its history, the McCain campaign is understandably proud of its stripped down, seat-of-the-pants, insurgent campaign style. But it may eventually be useful to have a serious campaign organization in, say, Colorado.

As Noam Scheiber says, it's hard to see any comparison in the merits of these approaches. If Gerson's take on the McCain campaign is accurate, then McCain is just doomed -- you can't run a nationwide, one-on-one, months-long campaign in the kind of seat-of-your-pants way that worked for McCain in the primaries.

This sounds like hubris born of a staff and a candidate that are unwilling to admit how much factors outside their control (namely, the Rudy collapse and the Huckaboom) played in delivering them a win in the primary.