John McCain set out to mend his relationship with conservatives after all but sealing the Republican presidential nomination on Super Tuesday. McCain on Thursday addresses a key gathering of conservative leaders, many of whom are angry about what they say are McCain’s liberal views on immigration and his opposition to President Bush’s tax cuts. "It's like he's in the middle of the road, and there's trucks coming at him from both sides," said David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union. (San Francisco Chronicle)
What the commentators said
It’s time for the GOP’s famous “maverick” to transform himself into the "unifier," said The Christian Science Monitor in an editorial. A majority of conservatives voted for Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee this week, and party “stalwarts” are still waiting to hear how McCain’s “base philosophy” squares with their views on such issues as taxes and abortion. If McCain can’t rally them to his side, the party will “crash land” in November.
McCain certainly can’t get elected if conservatives stay home in the general election, said Alfred S. Regnery in The Wall Street Journal. And conservatives have been burned in the past, so they are “very wary about supporting anybody who is less than one of their own.” But McCain can do this if he says the “right things,” which would include a firm no-new taxes pledge, specifics on spending cuts and judicial nominations, and an early pick of a conservative running mate. And it wouldn’t hurt if he picked a fight with “liberal journalists.”
McCain will fall into a “trap” if, immediately after “clinching” the nomination, he rushes out to court conservatives, said Kate O’Beirne and Ramesh Ponnuru in National Review Online. That could “alienate” the independents who brought him this far, and he’s already tried it to no avail, anyway. His smartest move would be to “take the fight to the Democrats, explaining why he’s against Harry Reid’s defeatism, Hillary Clinton’s health-care plan, Nancy Pelosi’s obstructionism on intelligence gathering, Barack Obama’s tax increases, and even Dennis Kucinich’s Department of Peace.” It might make him seem “too partisan,” but he has to “make the case against the Democrats” eventually. “Why not start now?”