Sen. McCain could be making a fatal strategic blunder in thinking he can cobble together a winning coalition in November via the unorthodox route (for a Republican) of courting moderates and jilting the conservative base, including Christian conservatives.
It's possible that McCain will win in November, but if that happens, it will more likely be a result of Obama beating himself -- assuming Obama's campaign doesn't disintegrate before he formally secures the nomination.
McCain must begin with the bad news that his historic appeal to centrist voters is in jeopardy in two major ways. The first concerns Obama's natural fit with these voters. His mythical narrative that he can unify Americans and usher in an era of "hope" will be irresistible to many who are hungrier for kumbaya than any particular policy agenda.
Second, McCain's favorable image among centrists could disappear as quickly as the mainstream media withdraws its opportunistic love for him -- a process that has already begun. Their affinity for McCain was purely a function of his being a thorn in the side to President Bush, Republicans and conservative causes. But now that he is the GOP presidential candidate, he represents the evil Republican Party, which must be destroyed at all costs.
If this weren't enough, he is running -- how dare he? -- against their chosen messiah, Barack Obama. If they turned on Hillary Clinton over it, McCain is way beyond crisp toast. This heretical challenge to the savior from a Republican will not be tolerated.
So no matter how you cut it, McCain begins with a crippling handicap in his quest to win over moderate voters -- a handicap that can only be overcome by an Obama implosion.
Exacerbating McCain's precarious position is that he has repeatedly betrayed the conservative base with McCain-Feingold, McCain-Kennedy, McCain-Lieberman, the Gang of 14 and demonizing achievers, for starters. He also has a habit of deprecating Christian conservatives, such as when in 2000, following the South Carolina primary, he denounced Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and other evangelicals as "agents of intolerance."
After making some overtures to the Christian right this time around, McCain has reverted to form by choosing to make conspicuous public breaks with pastors John Hagee and Rod Parsley. And a news report yesterday stated McCain even declined to meet with the Rev. Billy Graham, but later in the day, his campaign claimed that it has been working directly with the Rev. Franklin Graham's office to facilitate a meeting between the beloved evangelist and the GOP candidate.