Individuals hardly ever find success completely on their own. One needs the right friends and -- at least as important -- the right enemies. John McCain has both.
In the first category, McCain, the 71-year-old Senator from Arizona, can rely on Henry Kissinger. The former secretary of state and national security advisor under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford is something of a wise old godfather for the Republican party -- and he threw his weight behind McCain well before his poll numbers began climbing into respectability.
It was a time when hardly anyone was willing to even donate a single dollar to the McCain campaign. The phrase "No Surrender" was plastered on his campaign bus. It was supposed to refer to the fight against radical Islam, but it could just as easily have been the defiant credo guiding McCain, the Vietnam veteran-turned-politician.
Kissinger promotes his friend without pause. During an interview with Kissinger in his New York office on Monday, the éminence grise of US foreign policy had nothing but good things to say about McCain. Even off the record, Kissinger didn't shy away from praising the Arizona Senator -- the kind of tone one seldom hears within a political party. There is no one better for the job of president, Kissinger insisted.
Appealing to America's Political Center
But Kissinger has more than just praise to offer. His voice remains an influential one in conservative America and when he hosts a fundraiser, the guests often open up their wallets before the main course is served. McCain's war chest was depleted last summer but is now overflowing.
Money, though, is only one side of the equation -- when it comes to getting votes, McCain's enemies may be at least as helpful, including those from his own party. When those on the right wing of the party question his conservative credentials and complain about his defiance of Republican positions on such issues as global warming, it makes him more appealing than ever to America's political center.
The list of issues where McCain's deviance from party orthodoxy may help him in a general election is long. Some Republicans accuse him of being faint-hearted because he wants to close down the prison at Guantanamo and rejects torture as an interrogation method. But it's a position which makes him all the more attractive to millions of voters. Other Republicans blast McCain for voting against the tax cuts pushed through by the Bush Administration. But his reasoning for doing so -- a desire to avoid skyrocketing American debt -- has been accepted by many.
The Dispassionate Conservative
In short, whether the Republicans like it or not, their candidate does not -- in contrast to the Republican candidates who have fallen by the wayside -- blindly follow the party line. He is a conservative, but not a Cold Warrior. He is old, but not old-fashioned. This is a candidate who thinks for himself.
But perhaps McCain's most valuable support comes from the left side of America's political spectrum -- from Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The two candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination continue to battle it out in their neck-and-neck race. Indeed, the race has the potential for extending well into the summer -- a prospect that brings tears of joy to the eyes of the Republicans.
Neither of the two Democrats has had much luck attracting voters away from each other. Obama has failed to make inroads among Clinton supporters she has likewise found little success luring his followers to her cause. But however the contest ends, the wounds are likely to stick around for a while -- no matter how often Democrats insist they will heal immediately.
An Obama victory over Hillary and Bill would hit the Clintons' far-reaching network hard, and they might prove immune to an Obama charm offensive. In Hillaryland reside those who prefer the solid and the substantive. They want Realpolitik and are not interested in the polit-movement Obama has to offer. The Clinton camp wants to be governed, not inspired.
It is not out of the realm of possibility that a number of Clinton supporters -- those for whom experience is an important consideration -- transfer their support to McCain should Obama eventually win the nomination. At the very least, they will listen to McCain. His promises, after all -- experience, realism, readiness to govern from day one -- sound a lot like hers.
Friends and Foes -- Hand in Hand
Should Hillary come out on top, however, it is difficult to imagine that Barack's supporters will forgive her for torpedoing their dream. She would have to win over an entire army of disappointed Obamists. Indeed, his rise shows something of a dark side. As much as Obama preaches bipartisanship and unity, his followers have developed an intense dislike for Clinton. Their eyes glow when he speaks. But they narrow to tiny slits when she takes the microphone. The togetherness their idol calls for may include everybody, but it doesn't include her.
Obama's campaign has already motivated a number of young Americans to become involved in politics for the first time. But should he fail, many of them might slink back into the category of non-voters -- a group that is already huge in the US. Almost half of those registered to vote in the US don't cast their ballots in presidential elections.
The beneficiary of this Democratic spat is called John McCain. Eight weeks ago, one could have scoffed at his presidential campaign and pointed to his lack of broad support as a sure sign that he would fail. Now, those propelling his candidacy to success are everywhere to be found -- both his friends and his enemies, hand in hand.