Once upon a losing try for the GOP Presidential nomination, when John McCain was taking heat over an angry response, I announced I was chairing a new group — "Guys with a bad temper for McCain."
I'm no McCain basher, but I've been a McCain critic when needed and I once wrote a column titled "Senator Mood Ring." That concept needs further development.
John McCain is currently running about even per a Rasmussen poll in the 2010 GOP primary with former U.S. Rep. J.D. Hayworth. Here's why.
Millions of Republicans and millions more independents, many who were once Republicans, are generally movement conservatives who read, watch and hear the real alternative media in America and buy all those books on the NY Times best-seller list that the NY Times won't review. They know what a conservative really is and the many issues about which there is a consensus among them. They judge Republican politicians based on those issues and values. They gave up on Democrats long ago when Zell Miller retired. Blue Dogs are pastel at best.
These voters support candidates over issues and will generally accept some deviations. Mike Huckabee? "Soft on crime" as governor, too populist on economics, likes flaky stuff like term limits and "fair tax" that conservatives are divided over. Hard core on everything else. Mitt Romney? Never quite figured out the gun issue and there's that hokey health care thing in Massachusetts. Otherwise seems OK. Fred Thompson? Supported McCain-Feingold and squishy on immigration. Newt Gingrich? Will never live down sitting on the couch with Al Sharpton on climate change and the NY 23 endorsement of a GOP candidate who withdrew to support the Democrat. Rudy Guiliani? Calls himself a moderate, loses social conservatives on abortion and gay marriage but good on many other things.
The only current major GOP figure who fits the conservative issue consensus is Sarah Palin, which accounts for her popularity among them and the genuine loathing she generates in doctrinaire liberals and those who suck up to them.
Most conservatives know which issues these folks will support or oppose and can pick and choose accordingly. Hardcore social conservative gun owners can forgive Huckabee's economic transgressions, right-to-lifers can believe Giuliani would appoint strict constructionists. With the possible exception of Newt, they know who they can count on for what.
John McCain? Co-sponsored McCain-Feingold, wants to control the "gun show loophole," soft on immigration, drank the climate change Kool-Aid with Newt, among other transgressions, yet still maintains a respectable 70 percent or so voting record with the American Conservative Union, is s a hawk on big spending and foreign policy, opposes Obamacare and this Cap and Trade Bill — and he's why we've heard of Sarah.
I discussed McCain with three knowledgeable local conservatives, all pre-dating Tea Parties, and all three raised their core objection — "I don't trust him." There is no consistent thread in McCain's anti-conservative positions. Conservatives — and others — simply don't know which issue he's going to dump on them over next.
McCain has another habit not uncommon among elected officials of both parties in a desire to control the party structure by choosing its leadership and choosing its issues. He has enraged many conservative GOP workers by often supporting leadership from the "moderate" wing of the party, most of whom have been defeated.
Were he a panderer like Senator Spector or spineless like Senator Snowe, much of this behavior could be understood. He's not. That frustrates folks even more. What accounts for McCain's political inconsistencies requires psychological insights deeper than I possess. Suffice that they are about to cause him a tough fight for re-nomination by his own party.
Hear Emil Franzi and Tom Danehy Saturdays on KVOI 1030AM.