No meltdown but plenty of erosion

In his post below on John McCain’s blogger conference call, Scott refers to the zinger McCain delivered at Mitt Romney. I did not participate (having now made up my mind about McCain), but here is what the Senator reportedly said:

Maybe I should wait a couple weeks and see if [Romney’s position on the immigration legislation] changes. Maybe he can get out his small varmint gun and drive those Guatemalans off his yard.

Hugh Hewitt contends that this represents McCain’s “meltdown moment,” but I don’t agree. The first sentence represents fair comment given Romney’s pattern of flip-flopping, and the second sentence is quite funny. This is the kind of sharp, biting straight-talk that makes McCain stand out and contributes to his popularity. If McCain came close to meltdown moment on immigration it was when he dropped the f-bomb on Senator Cornyn. But that took place behind closed doors and so McCain likely won’t pay any price for it.
The last laugh may well belong to Romney, though. No wisecrack can overcome the fact that McCain is on the wrong side (from the point of view of the Republican base) on a momentous issue. Attacking Romney only highlights that Mitt is on the right side. Because the battle is on, the flip-flop charge is unlikely to resonate. The base will be far more concerned about what the candidates have done for them lately. The answer is: McCain has inflicted something perceived (not unreasonably) as amnesty and Romney has spoken up against it.
Moreover, McCain is stuck with this particular legislation, which Romney never endorsed. Romney is thus well-positioned to pick it apart. Apparently, there is plenty to pick at. Maybe McCain should have had the patience to work with Cornyn to improve the bill.
JOHN adds: Agreed. The “varmint” line was funny, and I’m not offended by an occasional profanity. The problem, for me, is the context of McCain’s blowup with John Cornyn. When Dick Cheney cussed out Pat Leahy, I had no problem with it at all. But John Cornyn is no Pat Leahy. Cornyn was the Attorney General of Texas and a member of the Texas Supreme Court. He is a very smart, very able, well respected, conservative Senator. He is, in my view, one of the most formidable men in Washington, and he is not on board with the grand immigration compromise. What bothers me is not that McCain uttered an expletive–I’ve done worse–but that when confronted by Cornyn’s objections to the bill, that was the best he could do.
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