January 30, 2008
John McCain demonstrated last night why some people consider him the GOP’s only serious hope this election year. His victory over Mitt Romney is Florida saw him win in a duel between two very different visions for the Republican party. McCain, for better or worse, embodies the qualities that defined the Republicans in a post-9/11 Bush presidency: Tough on national security, weak on national soveriegnty, and insistent that the first quality trumps the second vice.
McCain representes the dramatic transformation that happened in the GOP under President Bush in the War on Terror-era. Now, Republicans believe that President Bush established the party philosophy on engaging terror, and most of the last 6-7 years has been spent in defense of that doctrine (one’s definition of which means all the difference in support or opposition). McCain has defended it relentlessly.
McCain promises to bring some sort of unity to the scattered fragments of the GOP. Conservatives have right to be angry over McCain’s blatant compromises on illegal immigration, and his view of the Constitution does not stand out among his party. But many view McCain as the clear conservative choice over fiscally progressive and socially dubious Mitt Romney. McCain, for all his faults, has somewhat of a sense of direction and consistency to his record. Romney does not, and that is a glaring deficiency in today’s GOP, as it is rare enough among the Congress.
Can McCain defeat the Democrats? Probably not, but the larger issue for Republicans this year is finding out who can defeat the Democrats running the GOP. To that end, McCain inspires considerably more optimism than Mitt Romney.