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McCain's Rough Week

It's hard to imagine how the week could get much worse for John McCain. Wednesday night's announcement on Letterman, coupled as it was with news the following morning that McCain had rejected an invitation to attend CPAC, brought back all the anger conservatives generally feel toward McCain. He's not one of them. He's chummy with the media.

That was followed yesterday by an apology for saying US soldiers' lives had been 'wasted' in Iraq. And that was followed by Rick Santorum's "anyone but McCain" broadside, which was itself followed a somewhat brutal elaboration by Santorum last evening in an interview with Hugh Hewitt:

On taxes, John was never a vote that we could count on to reduce taxes, and I just fundamentally believe that that's what Republicans are all about, and he was one of the few, less than a handful, that repeatedly voted against reducing taxes and keeping tax rates down. He's, on an issue that I think is essential for a republic, which is campaign finance and the freedom of speech, I think he's done great damage to our republic in the way campaigns are run and financed. And it's this misguided notion that government should control speech, and that we should limit speech as a way of improving the discourse in this country, and I think it's wrongheaded, and I think it's dangerous, and he has been the outright leader. I think he's wrong on immigration. He's been the leader on that issue, too, which he's been wrong on the issue of the environment and our energy security. And I think it's...talking what he's talking about with the issue of accepting at face value and beyond the issue of what we need to do to control emissions, and having government controls of those emissions and not do it through technology, but do it through imposed government solutions, I think, is certainly from my state, Pennsylvania, devastating to a manufacturing state, and devastating to our economy, and I think will make us more energy dependent, and as a result, will decrease our security in this country. And I can go on with other issues, but those are pretty major issues in my book.

And I just don't think he's been there, and on the social issues that I care a lot about, look, I've been out there for twelve years leading in the United States Senate. I challenge you to find John McCain standing up one time when I was on the floor of the Senate fighting for the lives of the unborn, or fighting for the defense of marriage, standing up there and fighting with me. He just hasn't been there.

As if that weren't bad enough, McCain appears to be pushing full steam ahead on two issues that really infuriate conservatives (see Santorum's comments), campaign finance and comprehensive immigration reform. On the latter, McCain looks to be adding insult to injury by freezing other Republicans out of the process - including moderates like Arlen Specter - and crafting the bill in closed-door sessions with Senator Ted Kennedy.

Topping it all off, three major 2008 polls were released in the last four days (FOX News, Time, and ABC/WaPo) which showed McCain's support slipping by 3%, 6%, and 6%, respectively, while Giuliani surged in all three polls.

All in all, a disastrous week. It's going to be a marathon campaign with plenty of ups and downs, ebbs and flows. But unlike the other candidates, this is not McCain's first rodeo. Normally, experience in a Presidential race is considered an asset, and that may still prove to be the case with McCain.

The flip side, however, is that while other candidates like Giuliani and Romney are getting their first and second looks from voters, McCain has already gotten plenty of looks from Republicans, and they remain underwhelmed - to put it politely. So McCain's slippage in the polls has got to be concerning to his campaign. McCain can't just bank on Rudy coming back to earth when the honeymoon is over, he needs to start running a primary campaign that will appeal to Republican voters. He'd better start doing it soon.