Earlier today, Scott linked to several interviews with former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum regarding his former colleague John McCain. Santorum, whose conservative credentials are beyond question, makes a strong case against McCain on a number of issues near-and-dear to mainstream conservatives, and I have little doubt that a President McCain would infuriate such conservatives on more than rare occasions.
However, I disagree with Santorum when as he tells Hugh Hewitt that McCain can’t win the general election. Consider Santorum’s home state of Pennsylvania. According to a recent Rasmussen poll, McCain leads Hillary Clinton 48% to 42% and Barack Obama 46% to 38% in that state. Rasmussen has Clinton leading Mike Huckabee in Pennsylvania (but within the margin of error). Clinton leads Mitt Romney decisively. McCain is viewed favorably by 64% of voters Pennsylvania voters, compared to 59% for Obama and 53% for Clinton. If McCain is even competitive with the Democratic nominee in Pennsylvania, then he certainly can win the election.
Santorum complains that the MSM is building up McCain. That is true and it may even help account for his popularity. It’s also likely that, if McCain becomes the Republican nominee, substantial elements of the MSM will turn on him.
But McCain is a national hero whose political independence is beyond dispute (it’s that independence that annoys Santorum and, to a lesser extent, me). The MSM may be able to chip at the edges of McCain’s image, but lacks the ability, in my view, to tarnish it significantly. This will be particularly true as long as events in Iraq continue to validiate McCain on the surge.
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