The obvious responses to your doubts, Phil, would be (a) George McGovern and (b) Mike Dukakis.
Richard Nixon was never a beloved hero or a rallying point for the American people. Nor was Bush 41 a charismatic figure. Yet in 1972 and 1988, the Democrats suffered blowout defeats because they nominated candidates whom the Republican Party could portray as outside the political mainstream.
For 40 years, Democrats have refused to face up to an obvious fact: Americans don’t want a liberal president. Democrats have won the White House during this four-decade span only when they have nominated Southern governors who could be depicted, however inaccurately, as moderate/centrist types.
As to the positive appeal of John McCain, ideologues like ourselves cannot resist eye-rolling, shoulder-shrugging exasperation over the man’s unprincipled Maverickhood. Yet the fact is that the guy’s POW biography, his “Straight Talk” shtick, and his non-partisan reformer “brand” have a genuine appeal to independent voters. And the powerful Geezer Vote is a factor not to be dismissed.
I am not guaranteeing that Team Maverick can pull this off, but to see how it could happen, you’ve got to think in terms of non-ideological “swing” voters out in the sticks — the people I call “ordinary Americans,” who see politics very differently from the way we political junkies do.
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