Tough Road Ahead for John McCain

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With so many potential presidential candidates looking forward to the 2008 presidential election, we can all expect the campaign to be very heated, with a lot of the usual expected mudslinging that drives such elections. But over a year and a half before the 2008 election, not only are numerous candidates touring the country to raise campaign funds, they are also taking stances on major issues to set themselves apart from the rest.
One such candidate did an alarming job of this last week. Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) said at a South Carolina fundraiser, ‘I do not support Roe vs. Wade. It should be overturned.’ Taking such a strong stand on a sensitive issue like abortion can hurt McCain’s chances at being successful in the 2008 presidential election.
McCain is normally viewed as a moderate conservative. Though he tries to show that he is a strict conservative, he has faced a lot of criticism from the Republican Party in recent years due to his unconventional stances on important issues.
McCain supports gay rights issues and the idea of a guest-worker program for illegal immigrants. He also supports stricter limits on political campaign donations and was against President George W. Bush’s plan for $350 billion in tax breaks over 11 years. McCain’s record on environmental issues such as global warming has also set him against the Bush administration. He stands in strong opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
On the other hand, McCain is conservative in certain issues; he is said to be against birth control and sex education, and although he agreed that states should be able to decide whether to recognize gay marriage, he supported Arizona’s attempt to ban it in 2006.
The most important thing in McCain’s presidential campaign is that he appeals to both independent and Democratic voters in addition to Republicans. He was one of the whistleblowers of the Jack Abramoff scandal, he served in the military and was reportedly approached by John Kerry to be his vice presidential candidate in the 2004 election.
But quite simply, in 2004 election terms, McCain can be seen as a flip-flopper. His views are hard to generalize, and they vary greatly between and within issues.
Yet it is these midline views that have McCain on the good side of liberals as well as few conservatives. Now that he is in the 2008 presidential campaign, however, McCain seems to be trying to win over the home base of his party before tackling Democrats and independents. By taking such a strong stand against a historic case like Roe vs. Wade, McCain is trying to show that if put in charge of the country, his first duty would be towards conservatives. According to MSNBC.com, he even said in South Carolina that he would appoint judges who ‘strictly interpret the Constitution of the United States and do not legislate from the bench.’
But when a candidate is as up in the air on issues as McCain seems to be, one must take into consideration more than his self-declared stances on important legislative issues. If he were to take office in 2008, McCain would pass Ronald Reagan as the oldest president entering office. Reagan was 69 after winning the 1980 election, and McCain would be 72. Questions have also arisen about his health, due to a diagnosis of malignant melanoma in 2002, despite his current claims of excellent health.
What McCain doesn’t realize is that his uncertainty on issues can hurt both his Democratic and Republican support. It is very hard to please two sides of the spectrum, and although he has a history of being able to please the middle, McCain will have to choose a group of voters to target and stick with it. The bad news for McCain is that no matter what, he is bound to lose support from one side or the other.

Priya Arora is a first-year psychology and social behavior major. She can be reached at parora@uci.edu.

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