Digby explains what they are doing. They are running the one candidate who could possibly be branded as "Not a real Republican."
When faced with the total repudiation of their most precious ideals in the wreckage of the worst presidency ever, they picked the one guy in their whole party who any voter could possibly believe wasn't a loyal Bushie. The only thing they required was that he was a bloodthirsty sonofabitch who would keep the flame of war alive. He is happy to oblige.
How do the Republicans do that, when McCain has a conservative voting record most conservatives would die for?
They orchestrate people like Ann Coulter, Laura Ingrahm, Bill Bennet and Rush Limbaugh to read him out of the party. Independents love that. The Republican strategists then use this to feed into the media love-affair with McCain as the "straight-talking maverick." The media has already bought the "Not a Republican of the Bush-type" myth. All of this is aimed at the independents who want to like the McCain of media myth.
As for the Republican base, they know that they want to win, and the media extravaganza isn't going to change their minds. Again from Digby:
It's not that they don't care about McCain's heresy on campaign finance reform and illegal immigration, or despise him for his sanctimony. But they don't care about that more than McCain's national security policy, which is their obsession, and raison d'etre. McCain is their best hope to win and continue the glorious GWOT.So that's the strategy we are seeing played out. Sell McCain as the "Not-Bush" maverick to the independents while getting the Republican rank-and-file to fall in line and vote to keep the Presidency with "a bloodthirsty sonofabitch who would keep the flame of war alive."
He kissed all the right hems and he made all the right pilgrimages to the social conservatives and that is what they require. (In fact, like many petty tyrants, they actually prefer it when the person requesting an audience is insincerely seeking their favor. It's a sign of their power.) McCain embraces the conservative label and will let them have their way as much as he can get away with --- certainly on judges ---because he just doesn't give a damn about them. They know this. It's all about war with him. It's what he does.
The reports that the Republicans are having difficulty getting organized and raising money for this campaign are encouraging, but I am also suspicious of a head-fake. Even if it's not, if the election gets close and it begins to look like McCain has a chance, there is a lot of Republican money and desire out in the hinterlands that can be quickly marshaled behind the McCain candidacy.
The only part I don't yet see clearly is what their mechanism will be for getting out the base vote. At this point I'd guess that revolves around a combination of racism, Rev. Wright, Obama is a Muslim, and the lapel flag-pin. There will be more than that, though. It's early in the general election campaign and the armies are only just now lining up and getting into position for the battle to come. If, somehow, Hillary pulls off a big surprise and gets the Democratic nomination the same methods will be in place, just different messages. They've had eight years to put the anti-Hillary messages into the can.
Combine this with more Voter Suppression efforts in key locations like Florida and Ohio, and McCain has a good shot at getting elected and continuing the Iraq War as long has he is in office.
Let's hope it doesn't work. This analysis doesn't consider what the Democrats are going to bring to the party, and it only alludes to the environment the general election will be run in. None of that is yet clear.