A Surprise Tactic McCain Should Consider: Debate Nader

John McCain has always been one to take surprising risks as a politician and as a candidate, and there is an intriguing, but very risky, suggestion for McCain that has been circulating in recent weeks. That proposition is to debate Ralph Nader. At first glance, this seems like a pointless exercise, one that could only elevate Nader and diminish McCain. But let us consider the idea carefully, and try to understand why it might constitute a viable surprise manuever.

McCain would challenge both Obama and Nader to a debate- Nader would jump at the chance for some free airtime and for someone to take him seriously. If Obama agreed to that additional debate, McCain would have already won, but Obama will again stick to the minimum of three debates. At that point, McCain simply would say that even though Obama is ducking both him and Nader, McCain is perfectly happy to have a respectful discussion on policy with a national figure like Nader.

Nader will spend the entire time attacking Obama, since his voters are the only ones Nader could potentially attract. McCain should be able to find himself in the position of defending American anti-isolationism and support for Israel, and will have an opportunity to talk forcefully on issues that matter to conservatives. The end result could very well be a bounce of a few points for Nader, at the expense of Obama. As long as McCain holds his own, he will not lose any support from having the debate.

Once Obama sees that Nader is stealing his voters, and has an opportunity to attack Obama unchallenged on national TV, he might reconsider turning down another Obama/McCain/Nader debate. And then McCain has gotten Obama to agree to an additional debate while elevating Nader.

The idea comes with risks. If McCain falters against Nader, he could seriously damage himself. The public might view the debates as the two dinosaurs arguing while Obama rises above it. And McCain may have to agree to a debate with Bob Barr, but he should have no problem handling Barr, while portraying himself as the candidate who is willing to open the national debate to a variety of voices.

If McCain finds himself needing a few more percentage points in the polls, it may be a risk he should consider taking.   

4 Responses to A Surprise Tactic McCain Should Consider: Debate Nader

  1. Pelican's Point says:

    I realize that Lazar, and not Richard Landes, wrote this article. However, I’d like to offer a small suggestion. This blog is at the top of my daily list because of the very intelligent and insightful analysis of a cultural conflict that is raging in the world today, a conflict that threatens the lives of me and my family and my nation (US) – as it does the lives of every human on earth. I especially appreciate the reasoned attempt to recognize and understand the cultural and psychological dimensions of this conflict – an approach sadly lacking elsewhere on the web.

    It is somewhat demeaning to find articles like this one – offering ways for candidates for political office in the US to gain advantage over their rivals. While admittedly, there exists a tenuous connection between the two, there are thousands of blogs dedicated to establishing those connections and endlessly arguing over that topic.

    Presented here, such low-level topics, even though we probably share political viewpoints – only distracts from the truly important ideas under discussion. Worse, it leaves the lingering possibility in the readers’ mind that partisan political victories are the purpose here, supported by the otherwise excellent discussion of cultural conflict – and not the other way around.

    It’s your blog and I’m sure I’ll keep reading it no matter. However, this blog has become important enough to me that I felt it necessary to offer my perspective.

  2. Lazar says:

    Pelican’s Point-

    Thank you for your comment.

    While I will not at this time take issue with your description of the focus of the discussion here at The Augean Stables, I will say that there are many tangential issues in the country and in the world that are in some way related to the conversation on this site. This includes the Russian invasion of Georgia and the War in Iraq. The campaign season is certainly one of them, and is in the minds of many of our readers and commenters.

    The fact that I am providing to our readers some insight and ideas that I have observed in other places does not at all imply endorsement of a particular candidate. I have written here about an Obama rally that I attended, and about both the Democratic and Republican debates. A post that I sent to Politico.com about McCain advertising in The Jerusalem Post predictably resulted in some nasty comments about an American candidate advertising in a foreign publication.

    Not every item and issue that is of interest to the contributors will capture the attention of you, or indeed of all the readership. The majority of the posts will deal with the central argument of The Augean Stables, but we do like to occasionally vary the subject matter to other ideas that are of interest and are of importance.

    I look forward to your continued comments.

  3. Pelican's Point says:

    Hey, like I said, it’s your blog . . and I really appreciate it. But it is an interactive blog and I am interacting.

    (Please accept the following comment as good-natured chiding and not some crucial point that I feel I must make at any cost. Imagine me buying you a beer at the local pub as we discuss this and then we go on to more important matters.)

    You say . .

    “The fact that I am providing to our readers some insight and ideas that I have observed in other places does not at all imply endorsement of a particular candidate.”

    Not to belabor the point but I would suggest that an article that offers strategies for one candidate to beat the other is an implied endorsement of that candidate. Worse, since you did not discuss why it would be a good thing for McCain to beat Obama, just how to go about it, it implies that any reader of this blog would already understand the need for that outcome and would agree with you. It implies that all readers of this blog support McCain.

    I don’t begrudge you your politics which we share to some extent. I just like to think Augean Stables is about bigger questions. If McCain beating Obama is about those bigger questions then you should write an article explaining why that is the case in terms of those bigger questions.

    So far I have seen neither McCain nor Obama show the slightest comprehension of the cultural and psychological topics that are the focus of this forum.

  4. Perry says:

    Bring on the debates.

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