When I was in Italy I read The Party Decides by Cohen/Karol/Noel/Zaller and came away generally pretty convinced by their vision of party nomination politics expressing the desires not of the quotidien voter but of the individuals who, very broadly defined, comprise "the party" – current, former, and would-be elected officials, lobbyists, fundraisers, partisan media, and activists of all stripes. However, I think in one case they may be too hard on themselves where there is a possible hole in their theory:

While it is true that McCain did receive some intense opposition from within the party, I think it is decidedly not true that he "failed to win over the party’s establishment." Take, for example:

McCain’s reason for embracing the president is self-evident. In the 2000 primaries, McCain not only ran against the establishment candidate, George Bush, he ran against the lobbyists, money raisers, and party functionaries that make up the establishment itself. When he ran hard against those people, they rallied around his chief opponent, and he lost. Bailing out the president in his moment of need endears him to the party powers—or at least helps sap the force of their potential resistance to the possibility of his being nominated in 2008.

McCain’s rapprochement with Bush got going in 2004, when the senator campaigned with Bush to help him win back moderate Republicans disenchanted over the war in Iraq. In a gesture seen by millions of viewers, he sat with Bush’s family during one of the presidential debates. Afterward, McCain criticized John Kerry’s views on national security, despite his friendship with the Democratic nominee. When rumors surfaced during the race that McCain might replace Dick Cheney, McCain campaigned with the vice president to stop the whispers. "He was there whenever we needed him," said a Bush staff member days before the election. Recently, when Cheney refuted charges that the president manipulated prewar intelligence, he quoted the senator: "As John McCain says, it is a lie to say that the president lied."

This support for Bush is yielding support for McCain in turn. Just three weeks ago, McCain’s political action committee took in $1 million in just one week. Many of the professional Republicans who helped to kill his candidacy when he ran against Bush in 2000 now write him $5,000 checks—the full amount allowed by law.

Or this:

Sen. John McCain has tapped into President Bush’s vast network of campaign contributors in greater numbers and amounts so far than has a leading potential rival for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, Rudy Giuliani.

McCain did not establish a presidential exploratory committee until last month, a move that will enable him only now to directly start raising money for a possible presidential campaign.

But using an already-organized political action committee as a proxy for his undeclared presidential campaign, McCain over the past 16 months has attracted more than $1.4 million from about 640 of Bush’s 2004 donors throughout 40 states.


That is almost triple the $505,999 collected from former Bush donors by a similar leadership PAC belonging to Giuliani, a former New York City mayor. McCain and Giuliani have been running at the top of most early polls of potential 2008 Republican presidential candidates.

It was my understanding that it was generally known that McCain had traded his support for the Bush campaign/Presidency/establishment in exchange for its support in his bid for the 2008 nomination. This mitigates in favor of The Party Decides‘ central thesis – that the establishment, not the rank-and-file voters, are the prime deciders in presidential nominations.