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How McCain Can Win the White House

New America Media, News Analysis, Earl Ofari Hutchinson Posted: Jun 06, 2008

Editor's Note: McCain must stress that the Iraq war is not a totally losing proposition for Americans, duck the economic mess that Bush made and stoke middle and working class workers disdain for liberal solutions, says commentator Earl Ofari Hutchinson. Hutchinson's new book is "The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House" (Middle Passage Press, February 2008).

In a talk with reporters in Louisiana, Republican presidential contender John McCain implored disgruntled Clinton Democrats to back him. His pitch was: Im the toughest, most knowledgeable and most experienced on national security. The unmistakable inference is that rival Obama is too green, fresh, and untested to gamble with on these matters. McCains aim may have been to woo Democrats, but it also staked out what he must do to win the White House.

The terrorism issue is still a McCain election trump card. Many Americans think that there could be a terrorist attack on American soil at some point in the future. Those who believe this are susceptible to McCain's pitch that he is best suited to defend the nation's security and that, with America under mortal danger from a terrorist attack, it's too risky to change to the Democrats.

But this isnt enough. McCain must duck the economic mess that Bush made by pushing his economic plan that calls for lowering the corporate income tax rate, more tax breaks for business, and making Bushs tax cuts permanent. Though it looks a lot like Bushs plan, McCain can spin it his way with the standard GOP line that his plan is pro-growth, in contrast to the tax-and-spend Democrats approach to growth. This still has tremendous resonance with wide segments of American voters.

McCain can claim that his plan will save homes from foreclosure, spark business growth, and create more jobs. He can argue that Reagans economic policies sparked the economic boom of the 1980s and that his updated version of supply-side economic policies is a mirror reflection of Reagans.

McCain must openly and subtly stoke middle and working class workers disdain for liberal solutions to problems. Only a minority of American voters call themselves liberal. The Republicans repeated smear of the Democrats as tax-and-spend, big government proponents still strikes a chord with millions of voters.

McCain must contest the Latino vote. His name has been mentioned countless times in the Spanish-language press and most of the time the mention is favorable. Many Latinos look benignly on him because he broke with the GOPs hardliner stance and backed immigration reform along with Senate Democrats.

He doesnt have to top or even match Bushs total with Latinos to push the Democrats. All he needs to do is get a quarter of the Latino vote in the key Western swing states of Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico, and that might be more than enough to move the states to the GOP campagain. Even before Bushs massive court of Latino voters in 2004, Republicans received a quarter of the Latino vote and in some places such as Florida, did far better.

McCain must stress that the Iraq war is not a totally losing proposition for Americans. A significant percentage of voters still thinks a change in strategy, tactics, and direction in the war can bring, if not victory, at least a satisfactory peace. McCain will have a parade of generals, experts, and officials in the defense industry to help him sell that position to millions of voters.

To succeed, McCain needs a fractured Democratic Party. Exit polls in the bruising Clinton and Obama battles show that the bruises are firmly tattooed on some fervent Clinton backers.

Nearly a quarter -- mostly blue collar, rural, and non-college educated whites - said they will vote for McCain or stay home if Obama is the nominee.

The historic nomination of an African-American as the Democratic presidential standar- bearer is applauded by many publicly but privately it raises doubts among many others. McCain cant and wont stoke those racial fears. He doesnt have to; theyre already there.

Then theres the issue of how many voters turn out for the Democrats and the GOP. Much is made of the record turnout in the Democratic primaries. Yet in fairly recent presidential election history, there was lower turnout and seemingly less enthusiasm in the Republican primaries in the election battles of Bush Sr. and Reagan. Both were still elected.

The variables that work for McCain against Obama are the war on terror, a victory spin on Iraq, the experience factor, the voters inherent fear of an untested candidate, the strong tradition in millions of households of voting for GOP candidates (especially among male voters) a bickering, divided Democratic Party, and the X factor of race. McCain can and will exploit these variables on the campaign trail. He can win the White House with them.

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