BUT THEY'RE ALL MAVERICKS, AREN'T THEY?
Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com had an op-ed in today's L.A. Times called "Why McCain Is Still in It":
...How has McCain done it? It has mostly to do with his reputation as a moderate. In [an] NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, only 21% of voters said they viewed McCain as "very conservative," while 34% pegged him as a moderate. As long as he maintains his moderate brand, McCain will seem acceptable to some large number of independent voters and some smaller number of Democrats.
...The GOP will nominate a candidate who is widely perceived as being to the left of the party's conservative base, whereas the Democratic Party will again pick a standard-bearer more authentically liberal than centrist.
... the Republicans seem wise to have compromised, because polling showed that Obama was headed for a landslide victory if his opponent was an identifiably right-wing candidate....
But here's the thing: By now, no one the Republicans nominated would be "an identifiably right-wing candidate," because the press would be doing what it always does in presidential election years: defining the Democrat as a big scary liberal and declaring that wherever the Republican stands is dead center (which means to the left of the GOP's actual stances).
If the nominee had been Giuliani, we'd be expected to ignore his Podhoretz-brand neoconservatism and contempt for African-Americans and focus exclusively on his moderate stands on abortion and gay rights. Huckabee? Well, don't think about the fact that he doesn't believe in evolution or preached at John Hagee's church -- he's a different kind of evangelical; hey, he supports arts education! With Fred Thompson, even though he spoke the right-wing lingo better than any other big-name candidate ("Mr. Thompson has been talking about things conservatives actually talk about," Peggy Noonan wrote shortly before he got into the race), we'd be reminded that he voted for only one impeachment charge against Bill Clinton and he supported McCain-Feingold and, perhaps most important, "Everyone loves Fred" according to no less an authority than Sally Quinn. And as for Romney, we'd have been told that his headlong rush to the right for the primaries was just a ruse, and the "real" Romney is the pro-choice guy from Massachusetts with the health care plan.
Hell, if Newt Gingrich had somehow run and won the nomination, we'd be told he's a moderate -- he's been known to collaborate with Hillary!
McCain had a big head start, but by now any Republican presumptive nominee would be, according to the press, a "maverick," a "different" sort of Republican, a moderate who's breaking with party tradition. The press and GOP spinners might have to work harder to make this case with another nominee than with McCain, but trust me, the job would get done.