It’s all over talk radio. Local host Steve Gill excoriated the Arizona Senator all morning. The Big One himself has waged a pitched battle against him for days. I even heard the usually GOP-fawning Sean Hannity take McCain to task today.
I don’t get it. Sure, John McCain has disappointed me on some issues. But what elected official hasn’t? Besides, we’re Republicans, not loony Kossacks who froth incoherently every time one of their party doesn’t behave exactly as they demand. No one is going to vote precisely as I would all the time.
John McCain is far better than either of the Democratic candidates, and better even than some of the Republican ones–perhaps even including the one whom all the “conservative leaders” seem to be rallying around.
Here’s James Taranto today on that very subject:
The chief rap on Romney . . . is that he is not a man of conviction–that in his two runs for statewide office in Massachusetts (U.S. senator in 1994 and governor in 2002) he expediently took positions that are very liberal by GOP lights, and that differ drastically from the views he now espouses.
The conservative defense of Romney, we suppose, is that he didn’t really believe those positions, whereas when McCain has departed from the conservative mainstream, he has been sincere and committed. Fair enough. But who is going to be a more loyal supporter in the long run–someone who agrees with you on everything, but insincerely, or someone who agrees with you on some things, disagrees with you on others, and is clear about which is which?
I’m not at all implying that Mitt Romney is dishonest. But I will say that his conversion to conservative principles is so recent that I’d like to see more evidence . . . particularly when, as one blogger pointed out recently, when he was in Iowa he was promising more money for ethanol, in Michigan he supported expensive jobs programs for autoworkers, and was cozying up to the AARP in Florida. That just seems way too contrived for my tastes.
So is this an endorsement of McCain over Romney among the two remaining Republican contenders? No. But I am looking more and more in his direction.
I looked at every post I’ve written in the last three years that mentioned John McCain and I drug up this one from October of 2005. Included in it is a strategy, still valid today, that gives him a great advantage over Hillary.
. . . not having a member of the administration on either ticket changes the usual dynamic [of a presidential race]. It frees both sides to run against the status quo. However, the advantage is still to the incumbent. Democratic challengers . . . will likely be forced to run against everything Bush has done. While a Republican outsider can pick and choose from the President’s policies more selectively.
If, however, a key administration member is the Republican nominee, it may hamstring him or her in blazing a new course. Condi Rice, Tom Ridge, or a close ally like Bill Frist would effectively be campaigning as a sitting vice president looking to succeed Bush. On the other hand, John McCain would be free to run against Bush’s bad policies, while he promises to pursue his good ones. In effect, he could run against the worst of both parties. (Lest that be construed as an endorsement of John McCain, there are less conspicuous—and less acerbic—choices as well: Fred Thompson, Halley Barbour, and John Kasich, to name a few.)
Also note the Fred Thompson reference. I had completely forgotten that I had named him as a presidential possible so long ago. After tonight’s debate, I sincerely wish that he were still in the race.
An emailer writes that the animosity is due to McCain being “a real prick, which was on evidence tonight.”
The emailer is right. Paul Shanklin does some great parodies of McCain for the Rush Limbaugh show. They all seem to capture that “prickish” sneer.
John comments below about how personality as much as position may make McCain anethema to many conservatives. He also adds this:
. . . McCain’s FU attitude towards the party’s core will be a much bigger factor in the upcoming month, but we’ll have to see if voters opt to go with McCain based on his better polling numbers in the general election.
Keep that in mind when you consider that John McCain has not yet received a majority of the vote in any state.
Conventional wisdom is that Mike Huckabee is in the race to “sabotage” the conservative vote in order to help McCain. I think that the opposite is true. While it might help McCain in “winner take all” states, Huckabee’s continued third-wheel presence might just peel off just enough delegates to keep this race from being decided before the convention. While Huckabee probably hopes to make himself kingmaker of either Romney or McCain, I’m obviously hoping for a different king to be crowned.
While there are many Republicans upset with McCain over policy, it is clear from the comments below that there are almost as many upset with his personality. That’s not a small thing. It’s been more than 30 years since the more likable candidate hasn’t been the winner of a presidential election.
By that standard it doesn’t matter who the Republicans nominate. Either Romney or McCain bests Hillary, while neither could hope to beat Obama.
Jonah Goldberg is similarly bewildered:
. . this disaster talk leaves me cold. McCain wouldn’t be my first pick. Then again, none of the candidates were really my first pick. But I think the notion that, variously, conservatism, the country or the party are doomed if he’s the nominee or the president is pretty absurd.
And I find such claims odd coming from some people who’ve insisted for a couple years now that the war on terror is the #1 overriding issue of this campaign.
Jonah adds that he thinks the anti-McCainiacs are either pro-Romney and looking for any hand grenade they can lob, hate McCain and looking for any hand grenade to lob, or that it’s really all about immigration.
If one studies carefully the Clintama answers on the war on terror, illegal immigration, and Iraq then the magnitude of Republican infighting seems surreal. The gulf between Hillary and McCain is Grand-Canyon like. . . If McCain gets the nomination, I would have to believe that the Republican sit-out would only last midsummer until they could not take Sen. Clinton no more, and thus like Lancelot at Camlan belatedly enter the fray.