After watching McCain's concession speech last night, I realized it was John McCain's election to lose. From a mile up, the race was between a guy with tons of experience and some pretty hardcore wartime stories going up against another guy that was new to the senate and was basically unknown before 2004 to most voters.
I really liked John McCain in 2000, and wanted him to win the republican primaries. I probably would have voted for him as well (if I ignored some of his social conservative tendencies) because he seemed like such a centrist (or at least not too far from center on most issues, especially compared to Bush) and I found Gore totally and completely unexciting (I ended up voting for Nader).
When the republican primaries began in 2008 I was pulling for McCain as well, since I remembered the guy I loved on all those talk show appearances over the last several years. I was also pulling for Obama for the past year and was happy when both my early picks ended up on top.
Then the campaign happened. It didn't come on quickly, but I'd say definitely after the GOP convention, the old McCain I loved was gone. I don't recall much of any talk from McCain from the last two months about his detailed plans or reasons why someone should vote for McCain, instead all I heard about was why I should against Obama. That's never a good path to take -- when you don't accentuate your positives and instead focus on negatives, even if you convince others to avoid the opponent you end up with followers that don't have much to be proud of.
To this day I can't tell if it was McCain's choosing to do what he did at the end of the summer of if it was his true personality finally coming out. I like to think he became a slave to the GOP election machine that likely told him playing it straight with Obama and fighting on the issues wasn't going to rile his voting base as much as attacks and fear mongering could.
McCain's concession speech was eloquent, impressive, and left me with the admiration I remembered in the McCain from 2000 that I used to like. That the crowd surrounding him boo'd every time Obama's name was uttered makes me think maybe the McCain I used to like might be the guy still at the core but unfortunately let others run the controls during the election.
Anyway, for the first time since 1992 I was truly ecstatic on an election night. I knew the polls were looking good but I didn't want to be disappointed and a big part of me never thought Obama would actually win, but he did it. I'm glad my daughter gets to grow up and will remember her first president being an inspirational guy that proves anyone can still make it in America.
Of course, we've left Obama with a pretty tough nut to crack and I imagine once he gets in office all the crazy "socialist!" and "marxist!" talk will quickly go out the window as he'll move to the center and make some tough choices. I predict we'll see people on both extremes displeased with some choices but I find that a mark of a good leader. Bill Clinton made a heck of a lot of choices I disagreed with, but at the end of his term he turned a recession into a boom and kept us out of war and I hope Obama can do the same (obviously, without the intern thing).