Commentary Magazine


McCain’s Strange Opportunity

Given the results in Tuesday’s Mississippi Congressional race, there is plenty of warranted worrying on the part of Republicans about the November Congressional elections. (An agenda might improve the GOP’s chances.) John McCain might have some coattails (or Barack Obama some negative ones) in key states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida–if everything falls into place just right.

But chances are that there will be an even larger Democratic Congressional majority come next year. One consequence of this very safe projection might be that McCain will start running on that old crowd-pleaser, divided government. The prospect of a large Democratic Congressional majority unchecked by the power of the veto pen and free to pass all types of bills (from tax increases to abolishing secret ballot union elections to immigration reform devoid of border control measures) might make voters think twice about giving Democrats both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. And Congress currently has an approval rating even worse President Bush’s. So why not run against the Democratic Congress?

McCain has already done some of this, vowing he will veto any pork-barrel spending the Democratic Congress sends. And as the projected Democratic gains are adjusted upward, McCain might consider making this a significant part of his message. Who is going to slow down Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid? If he can get moderate voters to ponder that, he might make some headway.