Candidate: John McCain
Political Background: U.S. Senator from Arizona, Former U.S. Representative (AZ-1), Former Chairman: Senate Indian Affairs Committee and Senate Commerce Committee
Campaign Website: http://www.johnmccain.com/
GOP Appeal: War Hero/Former POW is inspiring, pro-capital punishment, pro-states rights, pro-nuclear energy, supports foreign aid cap, strong pro-military record and supports consistent modernization of military, pro-free trade, supports exporting alternative fuels like ethanol to close trade deficit, pro-reduction of government size and scope, anti-universal health care, leading anti-"pork-barrel" and wasteful spending advocate, has appeal to independents due to portrayed "maverick" status, pro-states rights, advocates strong Iraq policies and final victory, strong ideas on reforming welfare.
Cross-over Appeal to Dems: "maverick" status means he is not beholden to his own party, supports abortion in cases of rape/incest, pro-embryonic stem cell research, believes in climate change and need to convert to enviro-friendly fuels, strongest environmental record amongst GOP candidates, pro-tax hike on tobacco, anti-torture, sponsored Amnesty Bill for Immigrants.
Cons: Lost bulk of evangelical support in 2000 against Bush, "maverick" status as alienating as it is endearing for some, McCain-Feingold still a bitter point for many GOPers, age an issue as McCain is now older than Reagan was when he was elected, occasionally suffers from "foot-in-mouth" syndrome.
My Personal Thoughts: You know, hindsight and speculation makes you wonder "what if" in regards to the 2000 Campaign, where McCain could have both won the nomination from George W. Bush and gone on to beat Al Gore, as well.
All speculation about the past aside, McCain has managed to bounce back well from being dead in the water as a candidate after his abysmal experience with the Immigration Bill over the early summer. He allowed that to die, and has become a serious contender in the polls again, polling anywhere from 2nd to 4th nationally, generally fighting Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson for the spot behind frontrunner Rudy Giuliani.
McCain may actually attract more independents and moderate liberals than Giuliani, as he has an extensive track record of "being his own man" on issues. He also doesn't carry the personal baggage that Giuliani does. However, his invigorated spirit in 2000 did not win him the nomination. Now, when McCain attempts to rile himself up, it seems to come across a bit more forced than natural.
However, his name recognition helps him a lot. He is conservative enough to win conservatives and moderate enough to win independents and some Democrats. Right now, John McCain is the real dark horse of this entire campaign. With Romney and Giuliani fighting in Iowa with sudden media darling Huckabee, McCain looms quietly with his own base of support. If McCain can explode back onto the scene and draw more support his way, he may do well enough in Iowa and New Hampshire to upend the top-tier of the GOP candidates.