McCain Already Sputtering?

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With an unencumbered Barack Obama aiming his campaign juggernaut squarely at John McCain, some Republicans are a little worried. Not just because of Obama's soaring oratory and big money, but because McCain has seemingly failed to capitalize on his months-long head start. He's got image problems, he's got message problems, he's got organizational problems, and he's got Evangelical problems. Then again, polls have the two candidates pretty close. But compared to the enthusiastic Obama camp, some of McCain's supporters are downright gloomy.

• William Kristol writes that many Republicans are worried that "the McCain campaign doesn’t seem up to the task of electing John McCain," especially in the wake of his terrible speech last Tuesday night. His message, for the most part, was "debunking" Obama's claims, which is not quite positive enough for a general election. McCain should focus on his proven leadership qualities, but "it’s not clear if his campaign will be much help." [NYT]

• Thomas Edsall says that many Republicans are concerned about McCain's campaign. One thinks the candidate needs to mount a sustained attack on Obama for his ability to protect America, a strategy which McCain has so far refused to employ. Another thinks McCain's not being enough of a "maverick." And of course, McCain must overcome Obama's star power and make a case for his own candidacy and not just against Obama's. [HuffPo]

• Robert Novak writes that McCain is having a big problem with support and enthusiasm among evangelicals, his "most crucial" constituency. His stalemate with James Dobson and disavowal of John Hagee have alienated some Christian conservatives. [Chicago Sun-Times]

• Michael Luo also examines McCain's Evangelical problem. The campaign has been "ramping up its outreach to evangelicals" to counteract their "continued wariness." But it's been a "quiet courting" so as not to turn off Independents and potential crossover Democrats. [NYT]

• Chuck Todd and friends claim that Obama will obviously not win the Evangelical vote. But if McCain's Evangelical turnout is significantly lower than George W. Bush's? Combine that with a "surge in black turnout," and Obama has a chance in the South. [First Read/MSNBC]

• Jonathan Martin wonders whether McCain can "maintain his upbeat warrior image while running an uphill race against" an opponent he detests and covered by a so-called biased press. Obama has demonstrated an ability to "get under McCain's skin," and McCain has to resist his "penchant for the putdown" now that he's in the general election. [Politico]

• Noam Scheiber thinks that if McCain is as unknown by the voting populace as the Obama campaign is claiming, "then Obama is going to do very, very well." Obama, with his huge financial advantages and a blank slate, would have an easy time creating an unfavorable image of McCain. [Stump/New Republic]

• Peter Wallsten looks at the difficulty McCain is having organizing in the crucial swing state of Ohio. Some Republicans are worried about his ability to compete with Obama in motivating his activists. [LAT]
Dan Amira

Related: Kurt Andersen: I’m Not Totally Sure We Can [NYM]

For a complete and regularly updated guide to presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain — from First Love to Most Embarrassing Gaffe — read the 2008 Electopedia.