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Posted by on Jan 21, 2008 in At TMV | 17 comments

John McCain & The Republican Death Wish

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JOHN McCAIN AND SAM AT HIS ARIZONA RANCH

Beyond the recent fisticuffs between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama over who is blacker, no aspect of this campaign season is more surreal than the view of too damned many Republicans that their most electable candidate is unacceptable.

That, of course, would be John McCain.

This counter-intuitive enmity – harshly articulated by disgraced former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who recently said “McCain has done more to hurt the Republican Party than any elected official I know of” – did not develop overnight.

In fact, it has been lurking in the shadows in the form of what McCain advocates call President Bush’s “Death Star,” the advocacy groups and lobbyists that backed Bush in 2000 and have remained Washington’s conservative power brokers.

Let’s get this straight: The most fervent supporters of the sorriest president in modern times, a man who has almost singlehandedly brought the Republican hegemony in Washington to an end and a once proud party to its knees, have their BVDs in a knot because McCain won’t drink their Kool Aid.

Extraordinary, isn’t it?

I probably should mention at this point that McCain is the only Republican whom I would consider voting for short of a successful Draft Chuck Hagel movement, which makes this state of affairs even more vexsome on a personal level.

In a Washington Post article headlined “McCain Faces Payback From Old GOP Foes,” reporter Jonathan Weisman wrote that:

“Over the past decade . . . McCain has annoyed, aggravated and nearly destroyed some of the most powerful members of Washington’s Republican establishment, creating a list of antagonists including anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist and the vehement Gun Owners of America.

” ‘It is conceivable that he can be nominated because of the [primary] system we developed,’ said David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union and a longtime McCain foe. ‘It’s not conceivable that he could come out of this nomination fight or the national convention with the kind of enthusiastic support he is going to need for the general election.’ ”

Weisman notes that McCain supporters seem to relish a fight with the Washington establishment:

“John Weaver, a longtime McCain adviser, said the senator’s opponents long ago lost their power and influence, even if they don’t realize it.

” ‘Here’s who John McCain has angered: self-described conservative lobbyists who basically represent special interests,’ Weaver said. ‘They’re angry at him because he has put the national interest in front of their special interests.’ “

So what’s a party establishment rooting against perhaps the only man who can prevent a Democratic takeover of the White House to do?

Hope for a McCain-Mitt Romney showdown, says Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo:

“I think a lot of the establishment types in the GOP would rather go with Romney. And I think it’s a very open question how well McCain will do if this becomes a head to head race between McCain and Romney.

“There’s also the issue of open and closed primaries. South Carolina, like Michigan and New Hampshire, but not many of the coming primaries, is an open primary. But if you look at the numbers, John McCain lost Republicans by one point to Mike Huckabee [in South Carolina].

“There aren’t many open primaries left. And to best of my knowledge McCain has not won once this year among Republicans. He loses among Republicans and makes it up with big support from Independents.”

So there you have it. So-called establishment Republicans would rather almost certainly lose with Romney than possibly win with McCain.

Photo for Vanity Fair by Jonas Karlsson

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