John O'Sullivan has started a discussion of when to vote against your own party, a conversation popular among conservatives disenchanted with John McCain. On a personal level, it is fairly simple. With rare exceptions, your vote makes no difference to anyone other than yourself. In 2000, if I had voted for Pat Buchanan rather than George W. Bush, it wouldn't have effected the outcome of the presidential election. But I would have felt better about not having voted for a president whose policies I frequently opposed.
This is especially true for conservatives who vote in blue states. I know Massachusetts's electoral votes are going to the Democratic nominee regardless of whether I pull the lever for the GOP or a conservative/libertarian third party. In Ohio, for example, I wouldn't have that luxury.
It gets trickier when we are talking about disaffected conservatives defecting en masse. My guess is relatively few of the conservatives now complaining about McCain will actually withhold their support come November. Buchanan didn't find many takers in 2000; the Constitution Party has never cracked 200,000 votes; the Libertarian Party gets 300,000-400,000 votes no matter who the GOP puts up. But conservatives who think federal regulations or immigration are more important than judges or Iraq will be tempted to sit out the election or vote against McCain. It's simply too soon to tell whether these conservatives are numerous enough to make a difference to someone other than themselves.
Finally, there are the conservatives who actually vote for Democrats, as Ann Coulter has threatened to do if it is Hillary versus McCain. I have never understood these conservatives. This doesn't make sense even as a protest vote, because no one will read a Democratic ballot and think it was cast because the Republican was insufficiently conservative.
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