Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Up from roadkill

With primary victories in Ohio and Texas, John Sidney McCain completed his improbable comeback on Tuesday, the Arizona senator finally laying a real presumptive claim to the Republican nomination and boosting his delegate count above the 1,191 needed. McCain’s wins end the brilliant insurgent campaign of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who mounted a game challenge and kept his word to stay in the race until McCain officially clinched the delegates required to put him over the top.

So ends one act of the Republican passion play. But regardless of the early conclusion of the nomination drama, there’s likely to be a lot of Republican nose-holding in the nation’s voting booths. McCain has never been embraced by many in the party, especially the ideologues hard by the Beltway and the voices of doom on talk radio. McCain will gain the endorsement of President Bush tomorrow, but it’s an endorsement that comes with its own problems.

McCain the moderate has opposed Bush administration policies before; he’s seen as not being conservative enough on illegal immigration, a hot-button issue for the GOP faithful. That’s why the GOP’s rightest wing hasn’t welcomed McCain as the party standard-bearer so much as grudgingly accepted him as the least of the available evils.

McCain’s won this round of capture the flag; he has great work ahead convincing the rank & file to rally ‘round him while he carries it. Not only could previous stances against his own party come back to haunt him; there are still questions about his temperament — specifically his temper — to be addressed. Some in the bloggers’ world have hinted that there may be more to come from the press about McCain’s relationship with a certain lobbyist …

For now, though, John McCain has risen from roadkill status. He can enjoy much of the next seven weeks, as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama beat each other’s brains out for the rest of the Democratic primaries. Expect McCain to come up with a running mate by the end of the month.

But ironically, as painful and protracted as the Democratic nomination process might be, the time the Democrats spend building a coalition around two candidates who’ve forged a real consensus in the heat of battle may yield dividends in the general election — dividends likely to elude a Republican ticket built as much on expedience as anything else.
Image credit: Photo by River Bissonnette.

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