An year ago, I made the argument on another forum that John McCain was the best General Election candidate either political party has had for President since General Dwight Eisenhower, so with his passing, it seems to be a good time to expand on that a little bit.
There are a few caveats here. I’m only including General Election candidates, so promising individuals who ran but did not get the nomination aren’t included. I am a Republican, so I would have a bias against Democrats, as I fundamentally disagree with the direction they want to take the country, or have tried to take the country. I’m not inclined to believe the best presidential candidate in the last 50+ years has been one of the twelve Democrats.
The obvious favorite of conservatives is Ronald Reagan, who I do think was a good President, but there was some shady business (Iran-Contra.) He also put a lot of support in astrology.
Richard Nixon was the Republican nominee for President on three separate occasions, and I doubt there’s anyone who thinks he’s in contention in the category of best nominee. Barry Goldwater held some extreme positions, and gets a lot of credit for writing Conscience of a Conservative, one of the fundamental explanations of the Republican ideology. However, L. Brent Bozell Jr. was responsible for much of the intellectual heavy lifting.
Ford was kinda bland. The Bushes had their problems. Dole cried at Nixon’s funeral. Romney was out of touch.
Within this crowd, McCain’s problems aren’t as significant. And I’m more simpatico with his generally conservative but sometimes independent political positions than with any other President/ candidate in generations. He was better at his earlier job than most nominees, and worked across the aisle to get results at issues that matter.
He did suffer a significant loss as a nominee, but his main problem was that he ran in the worst environment for a Republican since 1964. That he kept the spread to single digits is a miracle. I remember a statistic that he won every state where George W Bush had an approval rating above 35 percent.