Frank Rich may be whistling past the graveyard, but there's a lot of merit methinks in his arguments that things aren't going great right now for presumptive Republican nominee John McCain. First of all, Rich notes, McCain's opponents in the Pennsylvania Republican primary Tuesday received 27 percent of the vote, even though McCain now has enough pledged delegates to win the nomination. (Ron Paul is a western Pennsylvania native, but he's drawn so little media coverage lately that I'm guessing that fact faded from voters' memories.)
To add to Rich's point, the broohaha in North Carolina over the state GOP's ads linking statewide Democratic candidates there to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright may be alienating some Republican voters from McCain, who has roundly criticized the ads. I listened to an NPR report (I think it was this one) in which North Carolina conservatives complained that they still haven't heard what they want to hear from McCain, a candidate distrusted by many conservatives. Given the flawed candidates McCain beat for the nomination, it's possible he still has to seal the deal with many Republican voters.
As Rich notes, McCain is also missing out on the grilling that the Democratic candidates are giving each other, which Rich seems to think will do less damage to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton than the conventional wisdom holds. In fact, McCain has a bunch of problems, according to Rich:
Mr. McCain is not only burdened with the most despised president in his own 71-year lifetime, but he’s getting none of the seasoning that he, no less than the Democrats, needs to compete in the fall. Age is as much an issue as race and gender in this campaign. Mr. McCain will have to prove not merely that he can keep to the physical rigors of his schedule and fend off investigations of his ties to lobbyists and developers. He also must show he can think and speak fluently about the domestic issues that are gripping the country. Picture him debating either Democrat about health care, the mortgage crisis, stagnant middle-class wages, rice rationing at Costco. It’s not pretty.