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“The Climb and Decline of The Ancient Mariner: The McCain Encore”

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My new Townhall.com column is up. Closing graphs:

Which brings us back to Senator McCain. His debate performance last night was wobbly, with meandering answers and an occasional grimace or misplaced wink. He fell back on his tired answers and many were exact repeats of Sunday night’s programming. When he wandered through answer after answer it gradually dawned that he is indeed way past his prime, a Bob Dole without the energy. Sure, he tramps from event to event, but at 71 he is not the same maverick he was at 63 when the McCain phenomenon swept New Hampshire and Michigan before running into conservative reality in South Carolina. Even the McCain enthusiasts watch this aging warrior and know that he could no more win in the fall than Dole could in ’96. Politics is not exclusively a young man’s game, but it is most definitely not an old man’s game either.

A GOP vote for McCain is a vote for a shattered base and a desultory campaign in the fall. It is a vote for lecture after lecture on global warming, campaign finance reform, and the bridge to nowhere. It is a vote for an old warrior way past his prime and the prospect of three debates against Barack Obama in which the age and energy gap goes unremarked upon while devastatingly obvious.

“[W]e’re looking at the media trying to make Barack Obama the president, and make John McCain the shill for him,” Rick Santorum told me. “I think they know that John McCain can’t win this election,” he concluded.

Of course they are. Of course they do. But the GOP voters won’t fall for it.

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