The traditional thinking about the Republican nomination is that no candidate can emerge as the standard-bearer of the party who is not embraced by the conservative wing. McCain, with an assist from Giuliani, appears well on his way to proving that conventional wisdom wrong.
In fact, the conservative vote has been split in many directions, but now has to decide whether to coalesce around Romney and send the race deep into the spring or turn the party over to Senator McCain and run a 1976/1968 campaign of the center. Mike Huckabee wants GOP voters to ignore what is at work in his remaining in the race, but that’s hardly likely. Next Tuesday’s contests will be a measure of the strength of the GOP’s conservative wing. If it remains strong, it will keep the Romney campaign competitive with wins across the country except in the northeast. If it shrugs its shoulders, the Reagan Coalition will have finished its run. Indeed, if the Arizona maverick triumphs next week, don’t be surprised if John McCain selects a Rudy or Joe Lieberman as a running mate as an “all-in” play for the muddled middle of the country.
UPDATE: Lefty Kevin Drum thinks McCain can’t possibly pick a Rudy as a running mate.
Kevin just doesn’t understand McCain. He’ll do what he thinks will win, and if he thinks the conservative base has nowhere to go and will vote for him because of the war, look for a pick left, not right, if he prevails in the nomination race.