Conservatives vs. McCain

The long knives are out. Rush Limbaugh says he'd rather see a Democrat in the White House than McCain. Laura Ingraham refuses to vote for the man. Ann Coulter would (allegedly) rather endorse Hillary. Count James Dobson out of the supporter category, too.

This is more than just garden-variety opposition, and it's not just jockeying for position to push a more-favored candidate. This is entrenched "no-way" sentiment, and it extends to numerous Republican legislators past and present.

"The thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine," Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), also a senior member of the Appropriations panel, told the Boston Globe recently. "He is erratic. He is hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me."

What does it all mean?

Even if McCain wins tonight, you have to discount considerably his chances in the general election. The right's greatest success has been in mobilizing the hard core of the Republican Party's conservatives, and if those folks don't turn out to vote in the general, that's trouble.

GOP strategists argue that McCain has appeal among independents, and maybe that's true, but that's not how Republican candidates win elections. John Kerry crushed George W. Bush among independents, but Bush won anyway. And most of the people that made that happen will stay home rather than vote for John McCain.

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