Sunday, April 09, 2006

McCain's Media Unmasking

George says the media is finally facing the fact that McCain is a conservative.

McCain proclaims his extravagant admiration for Teddy Roosevelt, a man of many virtues, not one of which was moral modesty. Speaker of the House Thomas Reed once said to TR, "If there is one thing for which I admire you more than anything else, Theodore, it is your original discovery of the Ten Commandments." St. John of Arizona can seem insufferably certain that he has cornered the market on incorruptibility. So, as he begins trying to assemble a presidential majority, he seems, as anyone trying to do that will, like a run-of-the-mill sinner.

But his quest for the 2008 Republican nomination was bound to require tactics inconsistent with his carefully cultivated reputation for unexampled authenticity. He has endorsed teaching "intelligent design" theory in schools and has sought a detente with Jerry Falwell, one of "the agents of intolerance" he denounced in 2000. But who has ever assembled a presidential constituency without endorsing positions formerly avoided or compromising positions formerly endorsed?

But to those Republicans who turn out to pick presidential nominees, one electoral consideration could trump ideological aversions: California. Ken Khachigian, a veteran of Ronald Reagan's White House, is a California Republican strategist who in 2000 was a senior adviser to McCain's campaign. Khachigian says McCain could "put California in play." McCain might be the only conceivable Republican nominee who could.

To put California in play is not the same thing as carrying it. But carrying it is not necessary to significantly improve a Republican nominee's national chances. If the nomination of McCain could force the Democratic nominee to spend a number of days and, say, $30 million to secure California's 55 electoral votes, those days and dollars could not be spent in Ohio, Florida and other battleground states.

This November could produce what McCain could use -- grim election returns for Republicans. If on Nov. 8 Republicans are reeling and a reelected Hillary Clinton is rampant, hitherto unenthralled Republicans might suddenly consider McCain as virtuous as he considers himself. For the politically nervous, "virtuous" is a synonym for "electable."

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