Towards A Good Samaritan World

Saturday, April 15, 2006

McCAIN: GOP FRONTRUNNER?

This piece sums up the latest on McCain '08. Like a lot of other sources the argument is that McCain is moving right to court conservatives:

If McCain is to win the support of the GOP faithful, he needs to shed his image as an undependable maverick. And he is clearly working to do just that. Even the White House communications director would not have defended Bush as vociferously as McCain recently did on Meet the Press. Whenever possible, McCain is jumping to the president's side to demonstrate that he is now a reliable team player.

But McCain isn't the only one doing the moving. The Republican establishment is showing unmistakable signs of edging his way. When you see Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi taking McCain down to the Gulf Coast to look at hurricane damage and fawning over him at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Memphis, while vying with Mississippi Gov.Haley Barbour to see who could suck up to McCain more, you know something is up.

A cynic might say that Lott and Barbour have visions of a running mate slot or a Cabinet post dancing in their heads. And perhaps they do. But the idea gaining greater currency within the GOP is that McCain is the only Republican who could defeat Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in the general election--or that he would at least have the best chance of beating her.

The $64,000 question is how much McCain might jeopardize his potential general election support among Democrats and independents by bonding so publicly with the Right, including on his upcoming trip to Lynchburg, Va., to deliver the commencement address at the Rev.Jerry Falwell's Liberty University.


But one thing is left out: immigration. McCain is a liberal on immigration, maybe the hottest issue of the day. To my mind, McCain's courtship of Jerry Falwell is probably related to the sudden salience of immigration. Since McCain could lose conservatives on this issue, he's trying to gain voters from the Christian right. I'm no fan of Jerry Falwell, but there's nothing about Falwell that's 1/100th as bad as the border fences and mass deportations that anti-immigration conservatives are contemplating. If you have to pick your friends among the less savory elements of the conservative coalition, Jerry Falwell is way better than Pat Buchanan. Go McCain.

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