Back in 2008 conservatives were in a tough spot: we had a candidate that many of us believe is representative of much of what is wrong with the Republican Party -- running against an ultra-left-winger who told America we could trust him, in part, because Joe @$&*^%$ Biden was going to be around to be a voice of reason.
While a few conservatives couldn't bring themselves to pull the lever for McCain, most of us, in the end, gritted our teeth and decided to vote for Sarah and "the other guy." Ironically, the moderates in the party, like Colin Powell and David Brooks, seemed even more reluctant than conservatives to vote for a politician whose style of politics they championed.
In the end, the less-than-enthusiastic support for McCain from the Right wasn't able to make up for a Republican brand that had been dragged through the mud, a Republican president with a 25 percent approval rating, weak debate performances and McCain's completely inept handling of a major financial crisis that proved to be the last nail in the coffin for his decrepit campaign.
However, given the radical changes Barack Obama has been making since he was elected, you have to wonder how things would be different if John McCain had actually managed to make it to the White House. Of course, all we can do is speculate, but you'd have to think that it would have been a mixed bag, at best.
1) Sonya Sotomayor wouldn't be headed to the Supreme Court: Of course, there are no guarantees that David Souter would have retired had McCain won, but given that he announced his retirement so soon after Obama was elected, you have to think he was ready to call it quits.
So, had McCain gotten to pick Souter's replacement, the big question becomes: would McCain have picked a solid originalist judge? Different people can reasonably come to different conclusions about which way McCain would have gone and whether the Democrats would have seriously considered letting a judge who'd vote against Roe v. Wade make it through. Still, however you slice it, you'd have to think that whomever McCain picked would have been a much better choice than Sonya Sotomayor.
2) A smaller, but still expensive stimulus bill: Given that McCain campaigned relentlessly on his fiscal conservative credentials, you might think he'd have opposed a stimulus. Not so. He proposed his own stimulus bill in the Senate that admittedly, was much heavier on tax cuts, but still had a hefty $421 billion price tag. Combine that with McCain's support of TARP and it's clear that deficits would have spiraled out of control no matter who took the White House.