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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Politics of a One-Term Pledge

There’s been some buzz over the last couple of days about a hint dropped by McCain operative Rick Davis that John McCain might revive the earlier-discarded idea of promosing to serve only one term. Steve Benin of the Carpetbagger Report provides a full analysis, and weighs the pros and cons (as does Tom Schaller at Salon’s War Room, where he concludes more emphatically that it makes no sense).
I dunno. McCain’s age isn’t the only issue here. Pledging to serve just one term–aside from creating some serious media attention thanks to the sheer novelty of the strategem–would reinforce McCain’s claim to be just a highly patriotic guy who’s answering a call to service rather than pursuing his own personal ambitions, or his party’s ideology. It might also appeal to voters who have doubts about both candidates, but who might be persuaded to prefer four years of one to a presumed eight years of the other.
But one thing is for sure: a one-term pledge would significantly raise the stakes on McCain’s Veep selection, who would immediately be viewed as a 2012-presidential-nominee-in-waiting. So it could really backfire on McCain if he chooses a running-mate who either (a) offends any of the various tribes of the conservative movement, or (b) has any potential 2008 general-election vulnerabilities. It would narrow his options significantly.

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