John McCain's last shot at this is to cut the congressional Republicans loose and ask the American people over and over again whether they want to give the Democrats a blank check. This is essentially what the Gingrich Republicans did to their presidential candidate, Bob Dole, in 1996. Not only does this put McCain in the position of running against the unpopular Democratic Congress and promising swing voters divided government. It also harmonizes the two conflicting narratives McCain is trying to push -- the conservative McCain who will veto Democratic tax and spending increases and the bipartisan McCain who will work with Kennedy, Lieberman, and Feingold.
McCain can say he is the only presidential candidate who can both work with the Democrats where possible and block their liberal excesses where necessary. He might even name those excesses: middle-class tax increases, taxpayer-funded abortion, economy-wrecking indulgence of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, and the enactment of the Freedom of Choice Act. Will it work? Maybe not, but it is probably McCain's last, best chance.
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