Thursday, October 16, 2008

John McCain Comes to Town

John McCain’s presidential campaign brought him to Downingtown this morning for a rally just 11 hours after the final debate last night on Long Island.

My first reaction on hearing this news was how fortunate I was to have two presidential candidates come to my town in the same year. But I was mistaken. McCain’s “rally,” which I understand is now underway, is an invitation-only event, not open to the public. No ticket? Just don’t go, because you absolutely won’t get in.

What is going on? If only loyal supporters and powerful people with money can get into political rallies, is there any connection at all left between the candidate and the voters? How can the people who have been excluded from the rally help but feel excluded from the campaign?

Where will McCain get the votes he needs if he is shutting the public out? He certainly didn’t win any friends with his performance in last night’s debate, a dull exchange in which the only time McCain’s eyes really lit up were when he was talking about who was on what committee when. McCain’s views and angry demeanor in the debate were so poorly received that CNN’s instant polling recorded McCain’s unfavorable rating increasing, in two hours, from 45 percent to 49 percent. A Republican-leaning Fox News focus group agreed unanimously (!) that Obama won the debate. Perhaps most damning for McCain was the large number of viewers who tuned out before the debate was over — because the election is over.

And maybe that’s the real point of McCain’s closed doors. He won’t win the election, doesn’t have a prayer of carrying Pennsylvania, but he hopes he can do some kind of damage control to start to rebuild the Republican Party and pay off his campaign debts. Yet some of my neighbors who were turned away at the club entrance may not be Republicans anymore after today. In a political campaign, you can’t completely shut the public out without making yourself irrelevant. I just don’t get it.