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McCain in '08: Jekyll or Hyde?

John McCain was in Seattle last night to help raise money for GOP Senate candidate Mike McGavick. Here is the Seattle PI's report on the event, which includes the following from America's premier quote-machine:

"McCain has been playing a double high-wire act," Larry Sabato, director of the Institute of Politics at the University of Virginia, said in an interview Monday.

"He's staying on the wire that got him where he is, and that's the maverick wire that pleases the moderates. But he's decided to take his right foot off and put it on the conservative wire, aligning himself more strongly with President Bush and the Iraq war than any of the other Republicans (eyeing the presidency)," Sabato said. He noted that McCain's Senate voting record is solidly conservative.

"The key question is, which McCain do Republicans buy?... And I think that will determine whether he gets the party nomination. If he's the Republican regular, he will win the nomination. And if he's still the maverick, he will not."

That sounds about right. The Republican base traditionally rewards loyalty and even though as of right now McCain undoubtedly has the strongest general election numbers of any GOP hopeful, he still has plenty of fences to mend and questions to answer before Republicans give him two thumbs up.

Let me tack on a final, random thought. I see that Russ Feingold has now moved into a commanding lead in the Daily Kos monthly straw poll, no doubt thanks to his "speak truth to power" move asking the Senate to censure President Bush. What a bizarre twist of fate it would be to see McCain-Feingold come to life as a presidential race bound by the dubious piece of campaign finance legislation bearing both their names. It would be like a bad reality television show watching the two "reformers" crisscross the country vacuuming up wads of cash, looking the other way while 527's from either side blasted them both, all the while decrying the deleterious effects of money in politics. The affair would be doubly ironic for McCain given that much of the conservative base considers campaign finance reform to be a crime against the First Amendment and one of the things they've found most difficult to forgive him for.