That's an interesting counterfactual you bring up, Hunter. One thing that I've always wondered is how it would have affected the 2000 primaries if the 9/11 attacks happened in, say, 1998 or 1999. There's a good argument to be made that if they had, and if national security were the most important issue then, that McCain would have beaten Bush, given his military background and Bush's limited foreign policy experience. For instance, I'm not so sure it would have been as easy for Bush to overcome that failed world leader pop quiz.
Had McCain actually been elected, it's hard to say how things would have been different. Interestingly, one of the reasons why McCain didn't get the nomination was his support for campaign finance reform--which Bush ended up signing into law anyway. McCain would not have cut taxes, but likely would have been more willing to veto spending bills, so I don't think you would have gotten as drastic an expansion of the size of government as with Bush. On the other hand, McCain probably would have been less likely to appoint reliable conservatives to the bench. On national security matters, I think McCain would have expanded the size of our armed forces rather than engage in Rumsfeld's military "transformation" and had McCain gone into Iraq, I think it's pretty clear he would have done so with more troops. Also, McCain probably would have had a more hawkish policy toward North Korea.
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