Victor Davis Hanson

Hardly. In reaction to McCain's own surge and the Republican windfall, the conservative base went ballistic. Soon a Republican civil war broke out over how best to lose the election.

Despite McCain's 82 percent ranking by the American Conservative Union, and his support for balanced budgets, an end to pork-barrel spending and earmarks, strong support for the war, and expressed regret over once supporting the Bush illegal immigration reform package, McCain was branded by the conservative media as a sellout and a near liberal. Not to mention, he was supposedly too old and hot-tempered to be the Republican nominee. The more McCain was discovered not to be a perfect conservative, the more he was accused of not even being a good one.

Even stranger, the various Republican candidates began invoking Ronald Reagan's three-decade-old tenure as the new litmus test of the times — apparently to show how moderates like the wayward McCain fell far short of the Gipper's true-blue conservatism.

Were conservatives supposed to forget that a maverick Reagan raised some taxes, signed an illegal alien amnesty bill, expanded government, appointed centrist Supreme Court justices, advocated nuclear disarmament, sold arms to Iran and pulled out of Lebanon — but to remember only that John McCain was not for the original Bush tax cuts or once supported the administration’s offer of a quasi-amnesty?

The Democratic cat-fighters are doing their best to give away a once-sure general election, but the Republicans seem to be doing even more to ensure that they forfeit the unexpected gift they've been given.

If Hillary Clinton does end up winning her party's nomination, November's vote may hinge on whether moderates and liberals are nauseated enough by the Clintons' brawling and character assassination to cross over and vote for a decorated Republican war hero — that is, if his own flag-waving party doesn't destroy him first.

Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.