An early jump on recriminations

AN EARLY JUMP ON RECRIMINATIONS…. The presidential race really isn’t over. There aren’t a lot of scenarios pointing to a McCain victory, but they exist.

But as of now, the scene at McCain headquarters is starting to resemble Lord of the Flies.

With despair rising even among many of John McCain’s own advisors, influential Republicans inside and outside his campaign are engaged in an intense round of blame-casting and rear-covering — much of it virtually conceding that an Election Day rout is likely. […]

The candidate’s strategists in recent days have become increasingly vocal in interviews and conference calls about what they call unfair news media coverage and Barack Obama’s wide financial advantage — both complaints laying down a post-election storyline for why their own efforts proved ineffectual.

These public comments offer a whiff of an increasingly acrid behind-the-scenes GOP meltdown — a blame game played out through not-for-attribution comments to reporters that operatives know will find their way into circulation. […]

At his Northern Virginia headquarters, some McCain aides are already speaking of the campaign in the past tense. Morale, even among some of the heartiest and most loyal staffers, has plummeted. And many past and current McCain advisors are warring with each other over who led the candidate astray.

A well-connected Republican in the private sector even started to receive calls and resumes from senior McCain aides this week. Ouch.

The operatives running McCain’s campaign aren’t just worried about a likely defeat, they’re also worried about their personal reputations, and the extent to which they’ll be blamed if and when the campaign comes up short. As these aides see it, it’s important to get a jump on assigning blame now, before someone else points the finger at them and, in the process, undermines their career. A circular firing squad is almost an inevitable dynamic.

“The cake is baked,” said a former McCain strategist. “We’re entering the finger-pointing and positioning-for-history part of the campaign. It’s every man for himself now.”

A McCain campaign official told the Politico that all hope is not yet lost: “We have a real chance in Pennsylvania. We are in trouble in Colorado, Nevada and Virginia. We have lost Iowa and New Mexico. We are OK in Missouri, Ohio and Florida. Our voter intensity is good and we can match their buy dollar for dollar starting today till the election. It’s a long shot but it’s worth fighting for.”

The interesting thing about that assessment is if McCain loses Iowa and New Mexico, as this McCain aide argues he will, and also loses the states where he’s “in trouble” (Colorado, Nevada, and Virginia), Obama can lose Pennsylvania, Missouri, Ohio, and Florida and still win the election.

Stepping back, and considering the broader context, I have to admit, it’s odd to see so many Republicans pointing fingers, assigning blame, dishing internal dirt to reporters, and generally showing the kind of discipline common in losing campaigns.

They are, in other words, acting the way Democrats used to act.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.