John McCain said his campaign had “a lot of work to do to unite the party” as he headed into Tuesday’s Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., primaries with a fresh pile of big-name endorsements. His biggest remaining rival, Mike Huckabee, has stayed in the race despite seemingly insurmountable odds as Rush Limbaugh and other conservative radio hosts urge activists to oppose McCain because of his history of breaking ranks with the Republican party on issues such as President Bush’s tax cuts and immigration. (Baltimore Sun)
What the commentators said
“Something is very wrong” on the airwaves, said Mark Helprin in The Wall Street Journal. “Ostracism following tests of ‘right thinking’ is a specialty of the left,” yet the self-appointed guardians of conservative ideals have taken it upon themselves to “stop the devil McCain,” even though that has meant backing first Mitt Romney, who became a Ronald Reagan wannabee in a “flash of light” last year, and now Mike Huckabee, “a populist theocrat” who is “in many ways as conservative as Vladimir Lenin.” It’s time for these “compulsive talkers” to put their egos aside and stop sabotaging their own cause.
The far right hasn’t ended up with the candidate it wanted since Ronald Reagan, said Roger Simon in Politico, and 2008 won’t be any different. The “radio talk show wing” of the GOP certainly didn’t back George W. Bush in 2000—because he “refused to endorse a constitutional ban on abortion." It didn’t like Bob Dole, or Bush’s father, who once referred to the far right as the “extra chromosome set,” either. The Limbaughs and Ann Coulters out there speak for a GOP minority that “exerts what influence it can but takes what it can get.”
McCain doesn’t need to bring conservatives around to win the nomination, said Brad Smith in the RedState blog, but he doesn’t have “any chance of winning the presidency” without them. It’s not their numbers that matter, it’s their contributions, their “enthusiasm,” and their willingness to work to get out the vote. McCain is lost if he doesn’t make a “concrete” peace offering, and recognize that telling conservatives to “grow up” won’t make this problem go away.