Ramesh Ponnuru argues that John McCain would be in “pretty good shape” in the fall to motivate the base of the Republican Party were he to win the nomination, becuase most of his deviations from conservatism–such as campaign finance reform and global warming–are not issues that conservatives typically vote on. “The question then becomes,” Ponnuru writes, “how many conservatives would stay home out of disgust at his position on immigration. I haven’t seen any data that make me think the answer to that question is ‘a lot of them.'”
He’s probably right, but at the same time, I’m not sure that it would take a lot of conservatives to abandon the party on immigration in order to cause problems for the GOP candidate. The question is not only how many, but where such disgruntled conservatives are located. In a story I wrote for last February’s issue, I explored the possibility that if even a small percentage of immigration hawks in Western swing states such as New Mexico, Nevada, and Colorado defect to a third party or stay home, it could be enough to change the outcome of a close election, as Nader’s showing in Florida did in 2000.
Of course, it’s pretty clear that all other Republican candidates would face obstacles in the general election as well.
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