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McCain, SCOTUS, and the Conservatives’ Choice

Thursday, January 31, 2008  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt
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Robert Novak confirms John Fund’s deeply troubling account of John McCain’s suspicion of Samuel Alito:

“In fact, multiple sources confirm that the senator made negative comments about Alito nine months ago. …

“I found what McCain could not remember: a private, informal chat with conservative Republican lawyers shortly after he announced his candidacy in April 2007. I talked to two lawyers who were present whom I have known for years and who have never misled me. One is neutral in the presidential race, and the other recently endorsed Mitt Romney. Both said they were not Fund’s source, and neither knew I was talking to the other. They gave me nearly identical accounts, as follows:

“‘Wouldn’t it be great if you get a chance to name somebody like Roberts and Alito?’ one lawyer commented. McCain replied, ‘Well, certainly Roberts.’ Jaws were described as dropping. My sources cannot remember exactly what McCain said next, but their recollection is that he described Alito as too conservative.”

Ed Morrissey notes that this account is even more troubling than Fund’s, and of course we have McCain’s denial of what seems certainly to be a true account, a denial that mirrors those he thrashed his way through last night on the “timetables” nonsense. (See Paul Mirengoff’s “A Surge Of Dishonesty” for a standard reaction to this low point for the McCain campaign.)

This revelation, combined with McCain’s halting debate performance last night and his increasingly strident assertions about global warming are going to give his handlers heartburn this week. McCain ought to be striding forward, but he is tired and unfocussed, and the fact remains he is trying to win a GOP nomination with a string of 35% wins against a divided conservative vote.

The conservatives care about judges in ways Senator McCain simply does not, and that message is going to be broadcast again and again this week, and weekend, as well Senator McCain’s record on the First Amendment, tax cuts, ANWR, and of course illegal immigration.

If the Huckabee supporters are conservatives, they will recognize the peril to their party’s core beliefs and abandon their favorite who has no chance of winning in favor of Mitt Romney who does. The Giuliani voters may surprise as well, as many of his fans in California are conservatives who were willing to overlook Rudy’s views on abortion in order to win, but who are now facing a possible McCain nomination and the recognition that the Arizona maverick is a phenomenally weak general election candidate upon whom the Dems and MSM will fall as soon as he has the nomination locked up.

Their attack? McCain’s age, of course, which Democrats used against Bob Dole with great effectiveness, and the idea that McCain’s judgment on matters of war will be inflexible and dangerously hair-triggered –the Goldwater reprise.

22 states vote in six days, but that’s an eternity in politics, especially after a big event last night put John McCain’s ideas and vulnerabilities on stage opposite Romney’s calm demeanor, command of the issues, and his conservative beliefs.

Expect the talkers, led by Rush but seconded by Ingraham, Bennett, Prager, Beck, Hannity, Levin and me to spend the next few days putting down a marker: McCain is a very weak general election candidate, and if he was to win, would not govern as a conservative in any significant way. Our audiences are not, as MSMers like to imply, not only shrinking but mindless. They are growing, but they are incredibly independent of thought. They also take in and respond to good information, and now the information will be focused on John McCain and the choice before them.

MSM will of course be sending a very different set of talking points into the general population, one that obscures McCain’s record and which refuses to remind voters of the immigration fiasco etc. MSM will focus on Rudy and Arnold and leave the impression of a coalescing around McCain. Romney will battle to keep the issues out front, McCain the process.

But the new media is at work. We’ll see how it plays out.

A thank you, btw, to the readers. As of this moment, 1,462,973 visitors to this site have come to this site this January, a new record for HughHewitt.com. I know many of you don’t agree with what you read here, but I appreciate your continued patronage.

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