GOP Hits Chord with Reform Platform

Washington Matters

GOP Hits Chord with Reform Platform

For a while now, there's been a lot of curiosity and downright worry in some GOP circles about whether John McCain could inject his candidacy with a big vision and something more than being a safe alternative to Barack Obama's thin record and "time for change" mantra. I think he's doing that this week. And tonight he'll try to drive the point home.

McCain is smartly making reform his central selling point, more than his personal story of POW heroism, which most everyone knows and respects, or his extensive knowledge of foreign affairs and national security, which is a selling point but won't be the clincher in this election. Nor for that matter will social wedge issues, like abortion and guns, tip the outcome in November.

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Reforming government, reforming the Washington lobbying industry, reforming campaign laws, reforming the military and defense contracting, reforming ethics in government, even reforming the Republican Party to set the stage for a new generation -- all are major themes that will work well tonight, especially after Sarah Palin's electrifying anti-establishment address last night. Some of Palin's biggest applause lines were about not being among the Washington elite or the old boys network or riding with the herd. She has a record of taking on entrenched power, whether in business or politics. Neither Obama nor Biden can claim the reform mantle as effectively as McCain and Palin.

Palin's conservatism will shore up support from the Right for McCain, and her down-to-earth narrative will appeal to working class white women and men, including some who voted for Clinton in the primaries, especially in rural and exurban areas in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia, all of which are battlegrounds to some degree. 

That will help McCain ride the saddle of reform, an issue that could sell well across party and cultural lines, tonight in accepting the nomination and on the trail this fall.