I've been asked a lot lately about how McCain can keep his maverick brand, and still reach out to conservatives.
For McCain to win a General Election, it is vital that he maintain his brand as a maverick who is authentic and gives us straight talk. However, I believe there is a false assumption that this means he has to be liberal. In fact, I can give you at least two recent examples of where McCain has been a conservative maverick who gave us straight talk:
1. He went to Michigan and refused to pander. He told Michigan voters the truth -- that the world had changed and that they needed to adapt and be re-trained. His reward for this straight talk was losing Michigan.
2. He went to Florida and refused to support the government-run catastrophic insurance program. This was courageous, in that the popular Governor Crist was pushing it (this was before Crist endorsed him).
Both these positions were couragous conservative positions. But they were also maverick positions.
In terms of policy positions, there are two primary issues in which McCain needs to assure conservatives: Immigration and keeping the tax cuts permanent. McCain is currently on the right side of both issues (he now says he wants to secure the border first, and that he wants to make the tax cuts permanent). As such, McCain doesn't need to now start changing positions, he merely needs to reassure conservatives that he means what he says on these two issues.
In summary, I don't think McCain's challenge -- to essentially be a maverick who appeals to independents -- and a conservative -- is quite as daunting as people think.
The choice between being a maverick or a conservative is really a false choice.