Time mag: McCain campaign may already be done

A reporter for the magazine suggests that there's just too much standing in John McCain's way for him to overcome.

Published July 22, 2008 9:28PM (EDT)

It's not even Labor Day yet, but one reporter for Time magazine is already speculating that John McCain's campaign may be headed for defeat in November.

Michael Grunwald argues that when the prevailing political wind, which is blowing against the GOP, is combined with McCain's own inability to find a voice and Barack Obama's natural political talent, we may have that dreaded cliché that pundits are so fond of using: a "perfect storm."

"Oh, let's just admit it: John McCain is a long shot," Grunwald writes. "He's got a heroic personal story, and being white has never hurt a presidential candidate, but on paper 2008 just doesn't look like his year. And considering what's happening off paper, it might be time to ask the question the horse-race-loving media are never supposed to ask: Is McCain a no-shot?"

Grunwald quantifies McCain's long-shot chances using figures from Emory University's Alan Abramowitz, who has whipped up a formula that, in 14 of the last 15 elections, has correctly predicted the winner of the popular vote. The measure uses three factors -- the approval ratings of the incumbent president, the economic growth rate and whether the incumbent's party has controlled the White House for two terms. McCain's score is the lowest since Jimmy Carter ran for reelection in 1980.

Of course, it's pretty easy to knock down any argument against McCain's viability at this point. In fact, you can do it in two words: It's July. Beyond that, McCain trails Obama by just over 4 points in Real Clear Politics' poll of polls. That's hardly an insurmountable lead. No one knows what will happen between now and November, an eon in political terms. And lest anyone forget, McCain has already come back from the dead once this campaign season -- in fact, he seems to relish being the underdog.

The real danger for McCain from a story like this is that it may be a self-fulfilling prophecy. It creates the narrative that his campaign may be in trouble, which can be a drag on the motivation of McCain's supporters, staffers and donors.

By Justin Jouvenal

Justin Jouvenal is an editorial fellow at Salon and a graduate student in journalism at New York University.

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2008 Elections John Mccain R-ariz.