Bob Novak says that the Republican party establishment is beginning to line up behind John McCain:
Sen. John McCain, given up for dead a few weeks ago as he ran a cash-starved, disorganized campaign, today is viewed by canny Republican professionals as the best bet to win the party's presidential nomination. What's more, they consider him their most realistic prospect to buck the overall Democratic tide and win the general election. Indeed, if Mike Huckabee holds on to actually win the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses, the road forward could be clear for McCain.
This scenario does not connote a late-blooming affection for McCain among the party faithful. Indeed, he remains suspect to them on global warming, stem cell research, tax policy and immigration controls, not to mention his original sin of campaign finance reform (with authorship of the McCain-Feingold Act). Rather, his nomination would result from him being the last man standing, with all other candidates falling. Rudy Giuliani's baggage is getting too heavy to carry. Fred Thompson never got started. Huckabee's Republicanism is even less orthodox than McCain's and seems unviable beyond Iowa. Romney is burdened with anti-Mormon prejudice and the accusation he is "plastic."
Rasmussen's daily presidential tracking poll shows McCain inching higher and nipping at Rudy Giuliani's heels for second place. I have no doubt that Giuliani's slide will continue and McCain will soon be running in second place nationally. McCain is also surging in New Hampshire as demonstrated by the poll averages shown on pollster.com.
Another indicator of McCain's "surge" are the growing attacks on him by the pathetic Mitt Romney:
Attacking the Arizona senator's initial proposal on illegal immigration, which McCain has since modified, Romney said: "Under his bill that he fought for, everybody who came here illegally could stay forever. Does he still believe that or not believe that?"
Romney also asked whether McCain "admits that he was wrong" about opposing President Bush's tax cuts.
"I'm happy to talk about times I was wrong," Romney told reporters at a ski lodge in the shadow of Pats Peak. "But I don't recall Senator McCain saying he was wrong to say that all illegal aliens should be able to stay here permanently. Or to say he was wrong to vote against the Bush tax cuts. I think he was on both counts."
With John McCain virtually every wing of the fragmented and demoralized Republican Party has something to hate. The anti-immigration wing will go absolutely berzerk if McCain gets the nomination given his support for Bush's "amnesty" program. The neoconservatives still resent McCain for his criticism of the mismanagement of the occupation of Iraq. The Club for Growth (anti-tax) crowd deeply distrusts McCain on the issue of taxes. And the Christian jihadist wing of the Republican Party also has deep misgivings about McCain given this statement:
Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance, whether they be Louis Farrakhan or Al Sharpton on the left, or Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell on the right.
So McCain may be able to get the nomination, but can he unify these quarreling and disparate groups behind him? Will his candidacy spawn a nativist, third-party candidacy focused on the immigration issue? Will the big corporate donors come out in support of a candidate who promotes campaign finance reforms and promises to end earmarking and pork barrel spending? It's a tough road for John McCain but everyday it looks more and more like he is the only truly viable choice the Republicans have.
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