GOP Nominee Probable John McCain was booed at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) today. Think Progress has a video. I’m told that Tom Delay appeared on Faux News this afternoon trashing McCain and claiming McCain supporters flooded the room with signs to drown out the boos. How dare they.
Dan Payne wrote at the Boston Globe before Romney announced he was dropping out:
Gathering nuts. Today the national Conservative Political Action Conference opens in Washington; it’s a gathering of right-wing Republicans, luminaries, and one president. Romney needs to wow them; John McCain needs to hire a food taster. If they take a straw poll and Romney wins, it will fire up right-wing radio for days.
At Salon, Joe Conason explains why McCain provokes paranoia on the right.
As Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, James Dobson and their lesser imitators furiously explain, they have strong reasons to distrust “straight talker” McCain, who straddles and shifts incessantly to advance his contrarian political strategy. He has so casually disrespected them and their opinions over the years, showing up routinely on the wrong side of so many of their issues, from climate change to gun control to campaign finance reform to the marriage amendment to the Bush tax cuts to judicial nominations, that endorsing him now would look like a wholesale abandonment of principle.
Moreover, the special interests of the right-wingers’ media panjandrums would be much better served by the defeat of a Republican ticket headed by McCain (especially if Huckabee becomes his running mate). In the aftermath they could argue that their party cannot win when the presidential candidate deviates from their dogma. Their profits and status would be depressed by a moderate Republican presidency, but greatly enhanced by a Clinton or an Obama in the White House.
For McCain to reach beyond the right-wing gatekeepers will be difficult, because rank-and-file conservative activists’ suspicion of McCain sometimes approaches paranoia. But like most paranoids, they have their evidence, too. Latent anger over his past betrayals was provoked into rage by his sponsorship of immigration reform that permitted a “path to citizenship,” better known as amnesty, or shamnesty, on the right. Beyond the issue itself were McCain’s alliances, not only with Sen. Edward Kennedy but with a broad coalition of liberal Hispanic and immigrant organizations.
More ominous still, for those of a conspiratorial bent, is the Reform Institute — the think tank founded by McCain, where senior fellow Juan Hernandez (who once served in the Mexican government) has divided his time between promoting liberal immigration policies and organizing Hispanics for McCain’s presidential campaign. As commentators in the right-wing blogosphere have noted with alarm, the Reform Institute has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from liberal foundations — most prominently the Open Society Institute, whose founder and chief funder is none other than George Soros. (Here I must disclose that I have worked for magazines that received OSI grants — and perhaps that also serves to emphasize the point here.)
You probably know already that George Soros is the Boogeyman.
Yet whatever divisions the Democrats face, it is the Republicans who confront an ideological civil war in which popular talk show hosts are serving as field generals determined to beat back McCain’s advancing army of Republican dissidents.
Despite his impressive victories, McCain continued to fare poorly on Tuesday among the conservatives who have defined the Republican Party since the rise of Ronald Reagan.
McCain won, as he has all year, because moderates and liberals, opponents of President Bush, and critics of the Iraq war continued to rally to him despite his stands on many of the issues that arouse their ire. And he prevailed because Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney continued to divide the right.
Huckabee became the champion of the Old South, winning in Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama, and he nearly defeated McCain in Missouri and Oklahoma. Romney won a swath of states in the Midwest and mountain West.
McCain, in other words, lost the core Republican states and instead piled up delegates in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Illinois and California. All are traditionally Democratic states unlikely to vote for him in November. Rudy Giuliani’s strategy, which was premised on his strength in such places, actually worked — but it worked for McCain.
Better and better.