Dean Barnett

On Thursday, the king of the blogopshere Glenn Reynolds asked, “Is it my imagination, or is John McCain’s campaign unraveling all of a sudden?” In fairness to Glenn, the unraveling of the McCain campaign has been a painstaking process that’s been ongoing for over six years. While many people are making a sudden discovery of the Republican Party’s ill-feelings for the Arizona senator, the hostility is nothing new.

I wasn’t supposed to be this way. John McCain was supposed to the Republican front runner. And Republicans historically give the nomination to whoever’s “turn” it is. And yet by no conventional rendering can John McCain be understood to be the frontrunner at this juncture. He doesn’t have the most money, he doesn’t have the affection of party activists, and he’s trailing Rudy Giuliani in public opinion polls by dozens of points. Looking up at Giuliani in the polls, the Senator is likely asking himself, “Who am I? How did I get here?”

The McCain mutiny has been six years in the making. For almost the entire duration of the Bush administration, Senator McCain has seemingly gone out of his way to antagonize conservatives and Republicans. He teamed with one of the Senate’s most liberal members, Russ Feingold, to deliver a catastrophic piece of campaign finance reform. This move won the plaudits of the media, but got only catcalls from conservatives. In more recent days, McCain has attempted to outdo himself by teaming with longtime Republican bogeyman Ted Kennedy to craft an immigration bill.

Just this week, McCain has seemed determined to remind conservatives of every thumb in the eye he has delivered to the conservative community over the past six years. First, McCain made his announcement that he’s running for president on David Letterman’s show. Letterman, like most members of the media, adores McCain. But conservatives don’t adore Letterman, and find his show to be an odd venue for McCain to announce that he’ll be seeking their support.

As insult to injury, McCain skipped this week’s annual CPAC convention. Again. McCain always skips the CPAC convention. All the other Republican candidates, from the mighty Giuliani to the tiny Tancredo made the pilgrimage to seek CPAC’s support. McCain had a prior commitment.

Dean Barnett

Dean Barnett blogs almost daily at He has also been a frequent contributor to the Weekly Standard's online edition, The Daily Standard. He can be reached for comment at

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