The Washington Times - June 30, 2008, 06:44PM

Steven Thomma of the McClatchy Newspapers has reported on what might be the most important factor in the outcome of the presidential election: the disappearance of 527 groups, the likes of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, to smear Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

John McCain seems to have outsmarted himself here in ways that will make it tough to win in November.

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Campaign finance laws, which he put his name on, make would-be contributors “nervous.” McCain’s well-reported tendency to look a gift horse in the mouth, as in his rebuke of the North Carolina GOP for an anti-Obama ad, means that “few are eager to take…risks to help John McCain, who’s bashed such efforts in the past and could again.” This means fewer people willing to buy attack ads, fewer firms willing to produce them — Washington-based DCI has said it is focusing on down-the-ticket races this fall, not the presidential contest — which will either force McCain into an attack role he’s uncomfortable with, or take a major Republican advantage off of the table.

Between John McCain’s rebuke of the North Carolina GOP and McCain’s repeated entreaties to supposedly-disenfranchised Democrats, it’s not at all clear whose support — whose happiness — McCain values more, Republicans or independent Democrats.

Thomma reports that billionaire T. Boone Pickens, , the man who brought the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth to your television screen in 2004, is sitting out the 2008 race. He declined to put seven figures toward a Karl Rove-run 527 that would’ve dedicated itself to attacking Obama: “Mr. Pickens has decided that he will not support any 527s involved in the presidential race this cycle and instead will focus his energies and his funding on a major, bipartisan, energy-focused public policy initiative that will be announced soon,” said Pickens’ spokesman, Jay Rosser.”

That Pickens has decided to put all of his energies into his own lobbying effort makes sense after reading Philip Klein’s interview with Pickens in The American Spectator.

And over at National Review’s The Corner, Byron York reports on Obama’s pre-emptive fundraising strike against the GOP attack machine:

“Tonight is the crucial financial reporting deadline for June.

Right now is the time to step up and own a piece of this campaign. I need your help to take on John McCain, the Republican National Committee, and the shady so-called 527 groups that are dedicated to attacking this campaign using millions of dollars in unregulated contributions.

Please support this movement by making a donation of $25 by Midnight tonight…

Thank you,

Barack”

National parties never matter more than in the presidential election. There are not enough independents in the sea for a Republican who doesn’t have the enthusiastic support from his party to win in November. This is the problem with being Maverick — eventually you need people to have your back.

EDIT:

Apparently I have misread one of the articles I linked in the piece, where I said that DCI was focusing on down-ticket elections rather than the presidential contest. The following, from DCI Group spokesman Geoff Basye, explains DCI’s true focus:

“I saw your blog post titled, “But who will do the swiftboating?” I work at DCI and handle our press inquiries and wanted to let you know that DCI will in no way be involved with the presidential election (as you said) but further that we will not be participating in any political activities. You had said in your piece that DCI said “we would focus on down-the-ticket races this fall, not the presidential contest.” That is in no way accurate. We are focused on serving our corporate, trade association and non-profit clients.”

Apologies!