John McCain is sitting on top of the world.
Following his success in the New Hampshire primaries and his takedown of Mike Huckabee Saturday in South Carolina, the Arizona senator has found himself the unlikely front-runner in the Republican Party’s search for a presidential candidate.
These victories came as surprising news to many, as just six months ago, it looked as though McCain had about as much chance of even having a campaign during primary season as President Penley has of growing back his hair — let alone a real chance at getting the bid — due in part to fundraising difficulties and the loss of two key campaign staffers in July.
There was even a point when McCain’s campaign manager Terry Nelson had to let a score of staffers go with only two week’s pay, “provided the money could be found,” according to the Washington Post — not exactly an encouraging turn of events.
However, the McCain camp, written off by the media (myself included) and by many within the Republican Party, never gave up.
Now, the veteran senator is running full steam ahead with all eyes on his campaign, looking for further success in Florida and on Super Tuesday.
However, McCain’s recent victories may create a disadvantage for his campaign – increased media scrutiny.
As the underdog in the presidential race, coverage of his campaign, for the most part, was scattered. But as the front-runner, he can expect both a higher volume of coverage — which in and of itself is not a bad thing — but also more critical coverage. And given McCain’s spotty record with a few key Republican values, this could become a problem for his campaign.
According to CNN, McCain, while garnering more mass appeal than other contenders like Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, is struggling to appeal to the more conservative base of his party.
In particular, his stance on illegal immigration has irked many within his party.
While the senator has repeatedly reiterated his stance that our nation needs more secure borders — and as the senator for a border state, he should know — he was a strong supporter for a bill that would have given illegal immigrants a path to legal citizenship. The latter view, of course, as evidenced by the repeated failures of so-called “amnesty bills,” was not received well.
Since then, he has not renounced his commitment to providing a way for illegal immigrants to legalize their status, but, according to CNN, has “told voters he has learned that Republican voters want border control first.”
In addition, McCain’s strong stand on campaign finance reform, which was capped by the passage of the McCain-Feingold Campaign Act, has become a major source of contention within the party.
The Act, which intended to curb big money from manipulating the political process, has been widely criticized as violating the First Amendment — namely, the right to use money as speech.
Then there’s also the question of his age.
McCain, 71, is no spring chicken, which could lead some, including Mike Huckabee’s mascot Chuck Norris, to question whether or not he still has the physical vigor to handle the stressful position. Just looking at how quickly the stresses of office aged the last two presidents, this could be a true concern.
Despite these difficulties, McCain and his camp don’t appear to be worried, and who can be surprised? After all these folks went through early in the campaign, a little media scrutiny probably feels like a weekend in Tahiti.
McCain is the comeback kid — or old man — and he’s not going anywhere soon.
Sean Reed is a senior political science major. His usually appears Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.