McCain Quasi-Launches Campaign, Bloggers Largely Disapprove

The Arizona senator opted to announce his presidential run on Letterman, but many bloggers don't quite see the point.

In an era when politicians like Barack Obama and John Edwards are utilizing the Web to announce their presidential candidacies, Republican Senator John McCain kept it old school, opting to announce his presidential run to millions of television viewers last night on The Late Show with David Letterman.

“I am announcing that I will be a candidate for president of the United States,” McCain told Letterman Wednesday night. However, he also added that he would be making a formal announcement in April. “This is the announcement preceding the formal announcement. You know you drag this out as long as you can. You don’t just have one rendition. You’ve got to do it over and over.”

Though no one is surprised that McCain has now (almost) made his candidacy official, his pre-announcement has yet to draw the same fervor or media attention as the announcements of Hillary Clinton and Obama, who, like McCain, were already expected to run in 2008.

In an election season where there are as many presidential contenders as there are contestants on American Idol, candidates are already restructuring the electoral process, namely by making pre-announcements before formal ones. The effectiveness of McCain’s quasi-launch of his campaign is already being debated by bloggers, who are also wondering if McCain will sink or swim in his second attempt at the Oval Office.

“This blog post is to let you all know that I’ll be writing a blog post announcing my intention to eventually write a blog post telling you about John McCain’s nationally televised announcement tonight that, after announcing that he was considering announcing his run for president, he’ll be officially announcing his presidential run next April,” wrote Peter Suderman on National Review Online’s the Corner. “I sincerely hope that, from now on, he issues an advance press release announcing all of his press releases. Never hurts to build more awareness, right?”

Over at Captain’s Quarters, Ed Morrissey thought McCain’s announcement was less than amazing. “Obviously, Letterman’s show has national reach, but it seems more than a little strange in two ways. First, it reminds people of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s announcement on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, but with little of the surprise,” said Captain Ed. “Did anyone think John McCain was not going to run for president? Secondly, it wasn’t even the formal announcement. McCain’s staff had to explain that the formal announcement — which affects contributor and spending status — will come sometime in April, and which has become even more of an anti-climax.”

While Suderman and Morrissey thought that making a pre-announcement was an asinine idea, others were more bothered by where McCain chose to discuss his presidential bid. Sister Toldjah argues that McCain’s decision to appear on Letterman and not attend a big upcoming political conference is a snub to the conservative voters he needs to win his party’s nomination. “The newly announced Republican presidential candidate has an uphill climb to try and win back conservative voters he’s lost the last several years on issues like campaign finance reform, global warming, the ‘Gang of 14,’ but [he] can’t make time to attend Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this weekend,” she said. “What does he have time for, though? Making the big ‘I’m officially running for president’ announcement on David Letterman. I’ve seen poorly calculated political moves in my lifetime, but this one ranks in the top five worst.”

Whether or not he is alienating conservative voters, Big Mo of Hang Right Politics viewed McCain’s appearance on Letterman as evidence of his political savvy. Comparing McCain’s announcement to others, Mo remarked that “… McCain’s was really different from all of the others. Going on Letterman to declare exposes McCain to a much different audience than partisans gathered for a speech, news junkies watching a cable or Sunday morning show, or people apt to go to a Web site to view a candidate talk,” said Mo. “I’m not saying it’s a stroke of genius, because Bill Clinton is the one who really pioneered using popular entertainment in the modern era. But I think it’s a smart move. At a time when both Dick Morris and Hugh Hewitt are declaring McCain’s campaign to be losing some major steam, appearing on Letterman to announce for president — to thunderous applause — may provide the fire his campaign needs.”

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Satta Sarmah is a CJR intern.