John McCain: Mainstream Press Bypass Candidate?

On March 31, 2008, in General, by Neil Stevens

Stephen Dinan at the Washington Times put forward a highly unconventional idea today: He suggests that John McCain bypassed an uncooperative press corps during the primary season by reaching out directly to the right on the Internet, and rode that support to victory.

Can he be serious? After all, the common sense viewpoint is that the Senator has spent the last decade making allies on television and in the newspapers, honing a Maverick™ image to make him the favorite Republican of the mainstream press. Patrick Hynes, who does Internet outreach for the campaign, seems to think it made no difference once McCain fell in the polls, says Dinan:

“During the unpleasantness, whenever Senator McCain put himself in front of reporters, the question was always, ‘How much did you raise today, when are you dropping out,’ ” said Patrick Hynes, a conservative blogger who Mr. McCain hired in 2006.

So how did he deal with that and get his message out? Hynes continues in the Dinan report:

“And then we’d put him on the phone with bloggers, and they’d want to talk about Iraq, and pork and chasing down al Qaeda.”

For the campaign, it came down to deploying the campaign’s best asset — Mr. McCain himself — in a forum where he can excel.

Mr. Hynes said the back-and-forth with bloggers took “a great deal of sting out of the criticisms” over immigration, Mr. McCain’s push for campaign-finance changes and other areas where conservatives have registered their discontent with the senator, who has secured enough delegates to win the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.

In short, John McCain did what we all talked about Fred Thompson doing, and what the hot names on the left are best known for. He reached out to us, made us an important part of his strategy, and gave us access. We in turn gave him a fair shot, and he did not waste it.

The idea that McCain’s strength is directly with the base, rather than with the press, runs directly counter to his reputation, but everything Hynes and Dinan say here, I can vouch for firsthand. I myself participated in one of the McCain calls. Listening to him did lead me to re-evaluate him and drop my opposition to his candidacy.

Now I’m nobody, but if several writers on several well-read sites all had similar changes of heart, that would explain why McCain came out of nowhere to notch the wins he did. He didn’t win with Democrats. He won with people who heard his message under the mainstream press radar.

Won’t it be nice to have a communicator in the White House again?


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