E.J. Dionne seems crushed by Senator McCain’s lurch towards conservatism. Oh, Dionne understands that conservatives have more power in Republican primaries than does “McCain’s old base among reporters and pundits.” Still, Dionne and McCain have been through so much together. Like the time Dionne enlisted McCain on John Kerry’s behalf (so it was a threesome) to respond to the outrageous notion that Kerry helped our enemy when he accused American soldiers of systematically committing war crimes.
Like most jilted lovers, Dionne warns his ex of dire consequences for his infidelity. Without the cover of his reporter/pundit “base,” McCain will lose his appeal as a maverick. He will “start to look like just another politician” and “once lost, a maverick’s image is hard to earn back.”
This is nonsense. McCain may be unsuccessful in courting enough conservatives to win the nomination, and that’s my hope. But if he’s the Republican nominee, he will be running against Hillary Clinton or someone to her left, not against the John McCain of old. As such, he’ll have a lock on the centrist vote.