When former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney promised to carry his campaign all the way to the convention, he must've believed the polls that showed him winning in California. Unfortunately the polls were wrong, and as of this writing McCain is the expected winner in California, too.
It was a big night for the Arizona senator and McCain took the opportunity tonight to make a pitch, granted a small pitch, for conservative support, promising to support the conservative values of the Republican Party.
I am reminded of an editorial in National Review from 1992.
AT THE OUTSET of George Bush's Presidency, NATIONAL REVIEW declared that we would be the Administration's fair-weather critics and foul-weather friends. We have kept the first pledge more often than we would have wished; we now redeem the second. As President Bush guides the frail craft of his campaign through the foulest political weather of his life, we haul down our own Jolly Roger, scuttle the S.S. Gadfly, and clamber aboard.Senator McCain won a great tactical victory Tuesday, and it cannot be long before both Romney and Huckabee quit the field. That acknowledged, let us also acknowledge that a McCain victory in November is not a prize worth coveting, only a situation more tolerable than the alternative.
With our denunciations of yesterday still ringing in his ears, Mr. Bush might reasonably regard our arrival, in Churchill's memorable phrase, as "the first recorded instance of a rat swimming towards a sinking ship." No stranger to compromise himself, however, he may find the calculation behind our support familiar: namely, that moderation in the pursuit of liberty, while it may not be a virtue, is infinitely preferable to extremism in the defense of government. And there are, after all, so many rats swimming in the opposite direction.
If the Democrats could be trusted to show any seriousness on foreign policy, if they could be trusted to at least postpone the repeal of the Bush tax cuts, if they could be trusted for one moment to address the immigration issue responsibly, then perhaps life in political opposition to them would be more tolerable than a McCain presidency. Unfortunately, whatever faults McCain might have, the Democrats have worse.
Conservatives find ourselves in opposition within our own party, not for the first time, nor the last. Eisenhower, Nixon, Nixon again and again, Ford, the first President Bush, Dole, the second President Bush, all had the reluctant support of conservatives. The conservative movement is not in danger, as some would speculate. But it does need to revitalize the hold on the party. It needs to bring new ideas and recruit better candidates.
And while we may support McCain for election in November, we will remind him he is not one of us, and his harshest critics will include a large number that happen to vote for him.