Friday, August 27, 2010

A Response to Rachel Alexander

After John McCain trounced J.D. Hayworth in the Arizona Republican Primary I wrote my thoughts about the race.

IC co-editor Rachel Alexander (who, of course, served as Hayworth's Director of Social Media) took issue with my assertion that McCain won "fair and square" with the promise to elaborate further. True to her word, she has done so on the IC main site.

Rachel's main argument is that the vast majority of the money McCain spent in this campaign was from his failed 2008 presidential bid amounting to $18 million. Conversely, Hayworth spent only $2.4 million.

With all due respect I find this argument unconvincing. While it is true that McCain outspent Hayworth by a 10:1 margin it is also true that Lisa Murkowski outspent Joe Miller in Alaska by a 20:1 margin. Yet it is Murkowski who might soon be out of a job.

Rachel also assert that Jim Deakin, the other Republican to contest the Arizona primary, took away votes from Hayworth. But that doesn't hold water either. Even if all the people who voted for Deakin somehow magically transferred their vote to Hayworth, McCain would still have had a convincing double digit margin of victory.

Consider what Rachel wrote back in February when she argued that Hayworth would defeat McCain in the primary:

Hayworth will win for this simple reason: This is a Tea Party revolt year, and Arizona's Republicans and Tea Partiers have had enough of McCain's support of this administration's bailouts and big-government policies.

Rachel is partially right on this count. The conditions under which McCain could have been bumped off were optimal. Yet it didn't happen. But if you can't pin the blame on money or on the presence of a fringe candidate what other factors can one consider? Well, methinks the problem here was Hayworth himself.

Now this isn't to say Hayworth wasn't a viable candidate. He certainly came with conservative credentials. But the problem was that he was perceived as a former politician who had fed at the public trough and was coming back for seconds. Fair or not, it was the perception. Conservatives in Arizona who opposed McCain would have probably better off to have backed a political novice a la Joe Miller or Mike Lee in Utah. Would a novice have upended McCain? Perhaps not. But it might have very well been a lot closer.

I hate to beat a dead horse but when Glenn Beck, arguably the most influential conservative in the country, announces that Hayworth's candidacy is over and done it becomes a nearly impossible albatross to remove from around one's neck. This is especially true considering that Beck describes McCain as "a nightmare."

The bottom line is that John McCain isn't exactly an unknown quantity in Arizona. You pretty much know what you are going to get. Whatever misgivings Arizona Republicans might have had about McCain's support for bailouts and big government they weren't substantial enough to compel GOP voters to pull the lever for Hayworth. Arizona GOP voters knew the choices that were before them. It is in this context that I make the assertion that McCain's victory is "fair and square." Whether Rachel likes it or not, J.D. Hayworth bears some responsibility for his poor showing this past Tuesday.

If there is a silver lining in all of this is that one learns far more in defeat than in triumph. That is provided if one is prepared to learn. I hope this commentary is taken in that spirit.


Rachel Alexander said...

Aaron, I wrote an article explaining why McCain won here -

When you have $18 million leftover from your PRIOR presidential campaign, you are going to beat ANYONE.

Aaron Goldstein said...

Um, Rachel, this post was a response to your article. Hence the title, "A Response to Rachel Alexander." In fact, I linked to your article.

It will do you no harm to read what I have written.

Rachel Alexander said...

Right, I read your response. You didn't address the fact that McCain used $18 million from his presidential McCain-Palin campaign (which people like I contributed to) to defeat JD. Does that mean you're saying that using that money against Hayworth in this completely separate campaign is "fair and square?"

Aaron Goldstein said...

I did address the money issue. As I have previously argued, just because you outspend your opponent doesn't mean you are going to win. Just ask Lisa Murkowski. So the money issue is a red herring.

Frankly, it doesn't matter where McCain obtained his money so long as it was obtained legally. And I have not seen you state that McCain's actions were illegal. So yes, McCain won fair and square and there's not a thing you can do to change this fact.