J-Pod has it exactly right. Republican primary voters will support the most conservative candidate who can win a general election –and if it is Rudy, they will line up behind Rudy. If Mitt or Fred prove their electability –and Romney took big steps in that direction with his 1Q fundraising and with the debate last Thursday night– they will pass Rudy by. It isn’t that hard to figure out.
Republican primary voters do not believe Senator McCain is a conservative, period. They will overwhelmingly support Rudy over Senator McCain unless somehow Senator McCain finds a way to persuade them he really is a conservative on taxes, judges, border security and, crucially, constitutional issues like free speech. Senator McCain’s refusal to recognize any misjudments on McCain-Feingold, the Gang of 14, McCain-Kennedy etc are barriers to his successful pitch to conservative activists and will remain so for the duration unless Senator McCain changes, because the conservative activists aren’t going to.