We have no inside information that it is the case, but some curious events happened this weekend at the summer meeting of the Pennsylvania Republican Party:
- John McCain at the last minute backed out of a previously scheduled appearance at the meeting, for the stated purpose of voting on the immigration reform bill on the Senate floor. Given the precarious state of the legislation even before it failed, his vote surely was needed, but on the other hand, it has not stopped him from missing votes, as showed here earlier in the week.
- Tom Ridge gave the closing speech at the meeting this morning, and was introduced as “the most popular politician in Pennsylvania” and was given a standing ovation. One would think that someone that popular in Pennsylvania would have some coattails and sway in getting people to support the candidate he has endorsed and campaigned for. Well, if you thought that you would be wrong. While only a portion of the Republican leadership voted, Rudy Giuliani overwhelmingly won the straw poll, with 87 votes. Fred Thompson was a distant second with 40 votes; Mitt Romney received 12 votes and Newt Gingrich ten. John McCain received only 7 votes. (Ron Paul, Tommy Thompson, Tom Tancredo, Mike Huckabee, and Sam Brownback each received less than 5). Not only that, there is also the vague report by the Patriot-News that “The fact that it didn’t mean anything doesn’t mean the straw poll was without controversy, though. … And others believe it was an unsuccessful attempt by some party leaders to help U.S. Sen. John McCain’s office.”
- Lastly, a Patriot-News interview with Tom Ridge showed him starting to turn away from McCain on McCain’s signature issue of Iraq.:
Time is running out for success in Iraq, said former Gov. Tom Ridge, adding his voice to the growing number of leading Republicans saying that the current American strategy in Iraq is not working.
“There will be a major readjustment, even from the White House on down” if progress is not achieved within a couple months, predicted Ridge during an interview today.
“There is very little sand left in the hourglass of Iraq,” said the former Homeland Security secretary, who said patience even among Republicans is wearing thin for the unpopular war.
“There’s more sand at the bottom of the hourglass than at the top, and at some point of time…somebody’s going to have to make a decision on when or how we make a withdrawal” he said.
It’s worth remembering at this point that Ridge was the person McCain had in the spin room talking about his candidacy after the first debate. He’s also someone who has been floated as a VP candidate with McCain should McCain take the nomination. For him to back off on Iraq like this is something that should be taken seriously. While Ridge has said previously that he has policy disagreements with McCain, it’s hard to imagine it on an issue as crucial as this.
If McCain’s serious and significant list of political allies cannot help him get any more than this level of support – and possibly even backfire – there can only be two logical implications: either the endorsements do not mean anything or those endorsing him are abandoning him. My gut says that the former is far more likely than the latter now, but it’s probably still far too early to tell for sure.