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McCain's Achilles Heel

Lots of Republicans don't like him.

By Petrarch  |  April 24, 2008

The headline news this week is Hillary's hard-fought victory over Barack Obama in Pennsylvania.  The candidates have spent the last six weeks flailing at each other, since it's generally considered that if Barack won the state, Hillary's campaign would be over.  She had to win, and win she did.  We can look forward, like Punxsutawney Phil, to six more weeks of nuclear winter between the two at the very least.

What's been less well publicized is McCain's hard-fought victory in the Republican primary.  What Republican primary, you may ask?  Wasn't that decided months ago?

Well, yes, in a way it was.  It's a fact that John McCain currently holds enough pledged delegates to win the nomination at the Republican convention in September.  He could lose every single remaining primary or delegate of those that remain, and he'd still be the anointed candidate.

But in a democracy, that doesn't mean that everyone has to like it.  Republicans are famous for "falling in line" when the occasion demands.  This year looks like it might be different, and Pennsylvania shows the way.

Remember: The Republican primary in Pennsylvania was entirely meaningless.  If not one single person voted in it, or if only one person did and wrote in Mickey Mouse, it would not make the slightest whit of difference to the eventual nomination.

As an opportunity to send a message, however, it is ideal.  Let's see what the Pennsylvania voters wished to say.

800,000 Pennsylvania Republicans took the trouble to come to the polls.  That's less than half as many Democrats voted, but then that's no surprise considering that the Democratic primary actually had the potential to matter.  But of those die-hard Republican voters, who can safely be assumed to represent the very most diligent and conscientiously loyal, John McCain wasn't even able to rack up three-fourths.

16% of the voters pulled the lever for Ron Paul, who has been a no-hoper from the very beginning.  In fact, as dreams of a Paul victory recede ever further into the realm of fantasy, his scores have gone up.

11% plumped for Mike Huckabee, who famously continued his race until McCain had collected every last delegate required for the nomination - but at that point, he threw in the towel and folded the tent.  He's not been campaigning for weeks.

So we have more than 1 out of every 4 core Republicans who, knowing that it cannot accomplish anything, nevertheless spent an hour of their day to cock a snook at John McCain.  And that 25% only represents those that left the house; countless more stayed at home and didn't vote for anyone at all.

It seems pretty clear that McCain expects to reach the Oval Office without the Republican base.  Notice his surprising lack of pandering to the issues that enervate them - his continued dedication to the cause of illegal immigrants, his loyalty to the anti-First-Amendment restrictions on free speech that go by the misleading name "campaign finance reform," and his aggressive pushing of destructive global-warming lunacies.  It looks like he's simply written off the core of his own party!

The polls indicate that this is not a completely idiotic strategy.  Any number of surveys of Democratic voters have shown that McCain is a viable option.  In fact, as many as a third of them say that if their candidate of choice doesn't get the nomination, then they'd rather vote for McCain than the "wrong" Democrat.

Can three-fourths of the Republicans plus one-third of the Democrats get McCain into the White House?  Yes, the math works.  But it doesn't put anything resembling a proper Republican there.

Of course it's good that a Republican can appeal to people who ordinarily vote Democratic, but not at the expense of abandoning the core values of historical Republicanism.  John McCain has every right to choose to take this route if he thinks it wise, but he'd better hope Dr. Paul doesn't wind up running in the general election under some other flag of convenience.  The Libertarians may be in for a very, very good year.