Straight Talk Strategy

John McCain’s camp plays Nostradamus in a campaign strategy PowerPoint that they released on their Web site yesterday, and it’s an insightful peek into the psyche of the once-beleaguered campaign.

Essentially, McCain thinks he’ll win New Hampshire and momentum will carry him from there. Some highlights of the strategy—with some caveats attached:

  • McCain is a modern-day Reagan: His campaign thinks he is the only conservative Republican who can keep the Reagan coalition together. Giuliani is too far left and Romnabee hangs too close to the religious right. Problem: That may be true, but poll numbers suggest the religious right is the cool kid in Iowa and South Carolina.
  • McCain = Electability: Poll numbers suggest he is the strongest Republican to face off against Hillary Clinton. Problem: What about Giuliani? He has polled well nationally for a reason, and attracts more moderate and independent voters than McCain. Plus, what if the Democrats don’t nominate Hillary?
  • New Hampshire , New Hampshire: After Romney loses Iowa, McCain thinks New Hampshire residents will vote for him like they did in 2000. This time, he has Curt Schilling to get him over the top. Problem: With or without an Iowa win, Romney is still from neighboring Massachusetts. That may buy him some percentage points.
  • Florida is key: Who cares that more than 20 states are voting on Feb. 5? McCain thinks that Florida will vote for whomever has the most momentum on Jan. 29, which will only help boost his momentum going into Feb. 5. Problem: What if a bunch of different candidates take the first three or four states leading up to Florida? Huckabee wins Iowa, Romney wins New Hampshire, Giuliani wins South Carolina, and McCain wins Michigan. In that case, no candidate is likely to bust through Giuliani’s firewall in Florida.

McCain can certainly win the nomination , but his campaign is banking on a complicated chain reaction to produce a victory. If a McCain win in New Hampshire doesn’t materialize, then he doesn’t have a catalyst. Without a catalyst, McCain’s political equation won’t produce a nomination.