John McCain does a lot of “tours.” There was the Bio Tour, the tour to forgotten places (where Republicans rarely win), and the health care tour. This week is the tour for the GOP base. He’s giving them a week of talks on judges, abortion, pornography, and other topics which many social conservatives contend McCain has essentially ignored. This may help him. But the McCain team seems to be missing some more fundamental concerns of conservatives, social and otherwise.
Some are tactical. Why is McCain spending so much time crabbing about media coverage? This simply reinforces the sense among conservative establishment figures that McCain is too thin-skinned. They do have a point: it seems a bizarre waste of energy to grouse when mainstream media coverage of him, as in the “100 day” fight, generally has been quite fair. And if he and his team expect perfect accuracy from the New York Times, they are living in a political fantasyland.
Also high on the list of conservative grievances is McCain’s criticism of conservatives. His slamming of the North Carolina state GOP for its ad tying Democratic gubernatorial candidates to Barack Obama is a case in point. This perpetuates the nagging feeling among many movement Conservatives that McCain would rather jab his allies than attack his real foes.
On a broader level, as the Wall Street Journal pointed out, McCain is still lacking an overarching theme or message for his domestic policy. So finding and articulating a consistent message might be a better strategy than three or four days of speeches on a select list of issues.
Now, it’s true that the vast majority of the Republican base (according to polls) has “come home” and is satisfied with McCain as the nominee. And it is likewise true that the election will be decided primarily by independents and those famous Reagan Democrats. Nevertheless, it would certainly help McCain to make sure he has his base secured–but to do it in a way that is meaningful and constructive. It’s not clear that he’s figured out yet how to do that.