Sen. John McCain stood up at a fundraiser late last evening at the oceanfront home of former ambassador George Argyros in Newport Beach. There were probably 80 people there. They dined on filet mignon, which cost $25,000 a couple.
McCain held his arms in that stiff bent way that he always does, a result of his nearly six years of POW imprisonment in Vietnam. The Republican nominee-to-be looked out at the guests and heI can out-campaign anyone, Republican senator John McCain said last summer and he did to win his party's presidential nomination told the truth:
"My friends," he said, "this is a tough race. We are behind. We are the underdog."
And then he uttered another truth that McCain's competitors ignore at their peril, "That's what I like to be."
Rhetoric from McCain on his position in the race? Hardly. McCain has a proven track record of applying this strategy to his campaigns and his interests, dropping off the radar for a time and letting his opponent have the spotlight, then sweeping in unexpectedly from behind to secure a win.
Precisely the strategy he employed during the Republican primaries to emerge as the front runner and presumptive nominee for the party's candidacy. Early front runners in the Republican race watches this happen, to their dismay, as they underestimated the former fighter pilot and Vietnam P.O.W. as they took the lead in the polls and fell, one after the other, to the wayside as McCain continued to climb, from behind, and overtake them, one by one. Even the expected heir of Reagan, Fred Thompson, seemingly underestimated his chances against the war veteran and found himself "gunned down" from before he could launch a successful push of his own for the lead position in the pack.
It would seem, in McCain's case, that the skills and tactics learned for being a fighter pilot have served handily in transitioning them into the arena of politics. And now those political gun sights are trained on Barack Hussein Obama.
As of June 1, the Democratic candidate had raised nearly $288 million. Now, that he's reneged on a pledge to take public funds, some think he may actually raise a half-billion dollars. Not counting millions more in parallel help from sympathetic 527 funds.
McCain has raised $110 million. Republican 527s are slow to gell, given the party's low spirits.
Looking back over the past year, McCain's record shows that this is exactly the place he works best, as the underdog. Using this spot to conduct town hall meetings, which Obama backed out of doing with the Republican, McCain is taking his message and his campaign to the grass roots level, an area the Obama camp seems to be largely ignoring. McCain is also slated for trips out of country to Mexico and Columbia to discuss trade, drug smuggling, and international terrorism, footage of which will likely be shown in ads coming this fall prior to the general elections, while Obama's footage will likely contain images of "a shirt-sleeved Obama, wading like a rock star amid his cheering throngs."
Perhaps as an unseasoned contender, Obama has not yet learned fully how to estimate his political opponents fully in a national election. Despite the insistence of the national media, his race with Senator Hillary Clinton was a close one, prior to her retiring her campaign after he achieved the necessary number of delegates for the coming Denver convention. McCain is clearly not a candidate to be dismissed when he is behind, as previous Republican front runners Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney can attest.
McCain was a fighter pilot, and his training as such was to get behind his enemy and take them down from behind. A lesson Obama needs to consider in approaching the November elections.
Once and Always, an American Fighting Man