More on McCain from National Review
... Senator McCain may have some liberal positions, but he is not a liberal. He is a conservative with some liberal positions. But on life, taxes, and national defense, his record is, in fact, very strong...
... Indeed, McCain seems ill-suited to articulate and champion a positive ideology, as conservatives generally understand the term. He is obviously devoted to his country and deeply committed to an ideal of honor, and he can be quite effective at expressing both of these profound passions. But, beyond them, he does not really seem to have a vision of what politics should aim to achieve, only of what he is angry about and wants to oppose; and most of the things that anger him do so as violations of honor, not of political principle or ideology.
That is where the misguided passion for campaign-finance reform comes from. It is why, when he moves from the generality of opposing earmarks to a specific example of egregious federal spending, just about the only one he calls up is a corrupt Pentagon deal with Boeing. I have the strong impression (first developed in a lengthy meeting on the subject with McCain himself) that his support for embryo-destructive stem-cell research — breaking with an otherwise spotless pro-life record — is driven by a personal commitment to Nancy Reagan, and nothing else; a matter of honor. He often explains his roots in conservatism in similar terms: as having first developed out of a personal loyalty to Ronald Reagan, who stood by him and his fellow POWs and worked to make sure America did not forget them. McCain does not seem to care about political “issues” the way most political people do... (emphasis added)
Democrats think they have John McCain in a trap. He is going to have to spend the time immediately following his clinching of the nomination trying to win over Republican voters to his right. That’s time he won’t spend appealing to independent voters. He could even alienate those independents while courting conservatives.
McCain should prove this theory wrong, and he should do it starting at CPAC tomorrow. There are two temptations to resist. The first is for McCain to spend the bulk of the speech burnishing his conservative credentials. He has tried doing that, and a lot of conservatives are still left cold. Besides, what they want to hear isn’t that McCain has a conservative voting record but that he will fight for conservative ideas. The second temptation is to provoke bitter-end conservative resistance and triangulate against it. That would be a dangerous strategy, one that could make fence-sitting conservatives turn against him.
What McCain should do instead is 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. Conservatives know that McCain can be a tough political combatant. They want to see him turn those skills on the Democrats. They’re tired of being on the defensive. Even McCain’s opponents in the CPAC crowd will have to applaud as he lays into the Democrats...