But, although national security is the top concern of Republicans and remains at the top of concerns for all Americans, social and economic concerns are also strong.
The unavoidable conclusion is that, if one assumes that McCain prevails as the party nominee, his choice for vice president will be crucial both for unifying the party and for the general election. He's got to pick a running mate who will bring strong credentials that satisfy the social and economic concerns of Republican conservatism.
What will this mean for the general election?
There's a sense that this is going to be a year when a Democrat will be returned to the White House.
An election year in which general public dissatisfaction is high does not bode well for the party in power. Plus, Democratic fund-raising and voter turnout is far outstripping Republican efforts.
The decisive battleground for the general election will be the third of the electorate in the middle -- independent voters and those without strong party affiliations.
These voters have migrated to the Democratic side over the past couple years. But polling indicates that this migration has been more defined by disillusionment with Republicans than with a surge of new enthusiasm for the Democratic Party and liberals.
This is supported by the fact that despite the Democratic blowout in the 2006 congressional elections, the approval ratings for the Democratic Congress are abysmal.
It is most reasonable to conclude that the Republican tent that housed party loyalists and independents for so many years is still the tent where most Americans want to be. They just need to feel comfortable that it's a tent that will be standing dependably once they are inside.
A Republican ticket that is balanced and strongly representative of concerns for national security, traditional values and a free economy can still be the winning formula.
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