GMU Analyst Offers Insight On McCain's 'Big' Mistakes

By Jennifer Buske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 27, 2008

Republican Sen. John McCain made three "big" mistakes while campaigning.

Add those to the fact he had to follow in the footsteps of an unpopular president, and the Democrats were almost guaranteed a win Nov. 4, a political analyst said Friday.

"It was a very unusual election, and almost all trend lines said it would be a Democratic victory," said Jerry Mayer, associate professor at George Mason University's School of Public Policy and director of the master's of public policy program. "It was not your year, Republicans."

Mayer addressed the Prince William Regional Chamber of Commerce's monthly legislative leaders' breakfast Nov. 21. The political commentator for networks including NPR and CNBC provided insights about the election's outcome and what will happen when President-elect Barack Obama is sworn into office.

"His insights were all really good and very helpful," chamber President Laurie C. Wieder said of Mayer. "We are so fortunate to have a world-class university in Prince William and can bring in speakers like him."

McCain's race to the White House was rocky from the start, Mayer said. He said leaning hard right in a general election was his first mistake, and accepting public financing was his second.

"He put himself at a severe disadvantage," Mayer said about the financing.

Mayer said McCain the Arizona senator limited himself by going the public financing route, and Obama, who opted out of public financing, raised much more money. Mayer added that Obama used the Internet to his advantage, particularly by using social networking sites, and secured not only finances but voters.

"Obama's Web site kicked McCain's Web site's" behind, Mayer said. And Obama "used it for more than just Web donations; he used it as a way to connect to followers. If you wanted to go to an Obama event, you went right to his Web site, and everything was there."

McCain's other big mistake was selecting Sarah Palin as his running mate, Mayer said. Although the Alaska governor was well received at first, the excitement around her died down after it became apparent that she "knew nothing."

And, Mayer said, by picking Palin, McCain contradicted one of his best arguments against Obama, that he was not experienced enough to be president.

"McCain argued that Obama was not qualified and then went ahead and nominated Palin," Mayer said. "Picking Palin was the worst mistake and most irresponsible decision a candidate has ever made."

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