One-term McCain presidency?

From the Department of Potentially Stupid Campaign Ploys come whispers, likely entirely unfounded, about the Republican nominee pledging to give up power to gain power.

Published August 12, 2008 7:34PM (EDT)

War Room friend, blogger and all around good guy Steve Benen -- with whom I dined last night here in Burlington, Vt., along with Mrs. Carpetbagger Report -- ruminates today on the idea of John McCain playing the promise-to-serve-just-one-term gambit.

Steve, as usual, has it right. It doesn't make sense, even for the soon to be 72-year-old McCain, to make such a promise; indeed, it doesn't make sense especially for a 72-year-old candidate. "I'm not sure it helps address the age issue, so much as it may accentuate it," writes Benen. "If McCain pledges to serve only one term, isn't he implicitly acknowledging that he's already pretty old? Why else would a would-be president consider retirement before taking office?"

If McCain does this, the first analogy drawn will be to a campaign with which his has already been (unfavorably) compared: Bob Dole. Dole did not make a one-term promise, but he did try the Senate retirement ploy. Giving up power to gain power is inherently contradictory, and smacks of either desperation or hypocrisy.

Voters understand and expect politicians to be power-hungry, and agreeing to give some up, rather than creating empathy, just sets off alarms. It looks weak.

By Thomas Schaller

Thomas F. Schaller is professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the author of "Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South." Follow him @schaller67.

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2008 Elections John Mccain R-ariz.