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SRLC Post Mortem - Part II

Continuing with some post mortem thoughts on the SRLC this weekend:

John McCain: I thought this weekend would provide some clarity on McCain's relationship with the base, but he continues to be a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. As I mentioned on Saturday, McCain's speech was fine and, as Howard Kurtz notes today, the MSM never seems to tire of the maverick, frontrunner storyline, but I did not sense a great deal of "warmth" for McCain among the crowd of delegates. That's not to say there isn't a greater level of respect (perhaps tolerance is a better word) for McCain among conservatives activists at the moment, in part driven by a left-brain pragmatism that acknowledges he may be the GOP's best bet in the '08 general election. But my sense remains, at least as things stand now, that if Republicans do nominate McCain it'll be a marriage of convenience rather than love.

Other miscellaneous thoughts:

Despite the fact that nearly every speaker harped on two issues that would seem to be implicit indictments of President Bush (runaway federal spending and the need to secure the border), the biggest applause lines of the weekend came when speakers voiced a full-throated defense of the President. Mitch McConnelll got a standing ovation after telling the audience, "I want you to know I think we have one of the great presidents in the history of the United States of America." Lindsey Graham received a similar reaction when he called President Bush "the Winston Churchill of our time." Graham said, "this president is under siege. He’s had more happen on his watch than anyone I can imagine. He’s not polling to make his decisions, if we follow him or not follow him based on polls, then shame on us."

The star of the weekend, by far, is a man who isn't running for office but I dare say could win anything he wanted: former Congressman J.C. Watts. Those who cling to the stereotype that the GOP's dominance in the South is predicated on covert appeals to racism should have been the room on Friday night. Watts held the virtually all-white crowd spellbound and received thunderous applause as he talked about his values and his vision for America, with particular emphasis on the need for diversity and inclusion. "God likes diversity," Watts said, likening the Almighty to an artist who paints in many colors. It was a virtuoso performance. In the lobby of the Peabody Hotel after the speech, Watts was mobbed by delegates wanting pictures, autographs, or just a shake of the hand. He is probably the closest thing conservatives have to a true rock star, and he just happens to be black. During Watts' speech I kept thinking to myself what a treat it would be to see Watts square off against Barack Obama in a debate, and how much the country might benefit from seeing two of its brightest African-American stars passionately and persuasively arguing such opposite points of view. That would be a ticket worth having.