Monday 16 Jul 2018 | 22:11 | SYDNEY
Monday 16 Jul 2018 | 22:11 | SYDNEY

The McCain gambit


Michael Fullilove


25 September 2008 08:31

When you watch video of John McCain announcing the suspension of his candidacy in order to return to Washington, DC and sort out the credit crisis, you have to shake your head over his political daring. Two things occur to me:

  1. McCain revels in risk-taking. On two occasions when he has found himself losing the political chess game to Barack Obama, he has thrown the board into the air. First, he chose an unknown female small-state governor as his running-mate shortly after Obama stepped down from the podium at Invesco Field. The result was a massive shift of momentum and a two-week polling bubble in McCain’s favour. Today, with new polls showing him running way behind Obama and with the credit crunch clearly hurting the incumbent Republican Party, he again catches the commentariat off-guard with this remarkable announcement.
  2. When McCain bets, he bets on himself. What I mean is that he takes decisions which play to his own perception of himself as a maverick and a patriot. The Palin pick reinforced McCain’s credentials as a rebel and an outsider; McCain’s remarks today were written in such a way as to present him as a leader who puts ‘country first’. 

It’s hard to know how this plays out. Will Obama be forced to follow McCain to Washington, or will McCain have to admit defeat and fly down to Mississippi on Friday for the debate? What if the appearance of disunity between the candidates causes the market to tank tomorrow – which man will ‘own’ that drop? Will this gamble knock Obama off his stride the same way his first gamble did or will it make McCain appear to be a self-interested chancer? Will the McCain gambit look like it’s above politics or just the same old politics?