Jewish World Review Feb. 13, 2008 / 7 Adar I 5768
Can McCain actually make it happen?
By Roger Simon
But, contrary to what some think, he doesn’t have to do that to win over the far right of his party.
The far right of his party hasn’t gotten the candidate it has wanted since Ronald Reagan.
What Republican power broker Ken Duberstein called the “radio talk show” wing of the party in this space last week certainly did not want George W. Bush as the nominee when he first ran in 2000.
Bush refused to endorse a constitutional amendment to ban abortion, and many on the far right preferred Gary Bauer (who ended up endorsing John McCain that year, because Bauer didn’t much like Bush, either).
The far right did not like Bob Dole, who made a point of refusing even to read the Republican Party’s tough platform on abortion. And George H.W. Bush once famously referred to the far right as “the extra-chromosome set,” which wasn’t exactly an olive branch.
The far right exerts what influence it can but takes what it can get.
(And if some want to bolt to a third party or stay home on Election Day, they will merely help ensure the election of a Democrat.)
McCain knows how far he has to go, and it is not all that far: He will continue to assure the far right that he is with them on the do-or-die issue of judges. At the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday, McCain said: “I intend to nominate judges who have proven themselves worthy of our trust [in] that they take as their sole responsibility the enforcement of laws made by the people’s elected representatives, judges of the character and quality of Justices Roberts and Alito. ... ”
Notice that McCain did not promise to nominate Supreme Court justices exactly like John Roberts and Samuel Alito, nor did he promise to nominate justices who would duplicate their decisions. McCain merely promised to nominate justices of their “character and quality.” And if you think there is some wiggle room in that, there is.
But McCain has earned his wiggle room. He almost certainly will be the Republican nominee. Which is why it is important for him to remember one thing: He has won a tough fight in a weak field. And the fight against the Democratic nominee is going to be much tougher.
For a party that values hierarchy and giving the nomination to the “next guy in line,” McCain was the candidate who fit the bill most closely, the candidate who was best known within the party, the candidate who had punched his ticket.
Nobody fit that bill perfectly. There was nobody who could satisfy the old Reagan coalition of social, fiscal and foreign policy conservatives. But McCain came closest and, to his credit, hung tough when it looked like he was out of money and out of luck last summer.
But the general election is going to be nothing like the primary election. McCain is going to have to run an extremely strong and energetic campaign.
There was a particularly interesting exchange between Mike Huckabee, who is still contesting the Republican nomination, and Tim Russert on “Meet the Press” Sunday. At the time, I thought the exchange was merely hilarious. Now, I am not so sure.
Here is the exchange from the show’s transcript:
RUSSERT: “You need 1,191 delegates; you have 231, as I mentioned. That means you need 960.”
RUSSERT: “There are only 819 delegates to win. So how are you going to do that?”
HUCKABEE: “Well, you know, I don’t know how the math works out, but there’s always the chance something stumbles.”
Something ... stumbles?
Huckabee could be talking about McCain making a political stumble. But it is hard to imagine that happening at this stage of the game.
So could Huckabee be talking about some other kind of stumble, something that incapacitates or casts doubt on the health of the 71-year-old McCain?
I don’t know. I do know that in the general election McCain is going to argue that only he is strong enough to protect America against dangerous and tenacious enemies.
To make that point, McCain is going to have to radiate strength and vigor and portray himself as the man who is strong and energetic enough to protect America from its foes.
That is going to be one of McCain’s greatest challenges.
Wednesday: Can McCain boost it up?
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
© 2008, Creators Syndicate