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John McCain's Anti-Partisan Tics

By Brendan Nyhan

As many observers of John McCain have noted, one of the reasons the press loves him so much is the way he signals his disdain for normal politics. Even when McCain delivers partisan attack lines, he winks and nods to reporters as if to say "I know this is silly." The problem his speech last night revealed is that those tics seems to have become so ingrained that, as Josh Marshall writes, McCain seems to "[find] it impossible to pretend he's actually thinking what he's saying." The cheesy fake smiles that were interspersed with his attacks on Obama -- which the press may appreciate as signals of insincerity -- only enhanced the phoniness of the effect on television.

On a more substantive level, embracing the idea of "change" is probably the right idea given the political fundamentals, but -- like Hillary -- McCain's identity and length of service mean that he will never take that role away from Obama. Also, unlike Hillary, he has few policies to promote that actually would represent significant changes from the current administration. In short, he's boxed in, which means his message will ultimately boil down to the claim that entrusting Obama with the presidency is too risky.

Brendan blogs at