In Reader Mail today, I draw a lot of heat from readers for my column in which I argued that John McCain, and to a lesser extent Mike Huckabee, have succeeded despite strong opposition from conservative leaders and opinion makers. The complaints seem to hinge on several misunderstandings that I should clarify.
Readers objected to my use of the term “elite conservatives,” which gave the impression that I meant that rank and file conservatives didn’t have legitimate gripes with McCain or Huckabee, but I don’t think that. I just mentioned “elites” because they are the ones who used thier platforms–be it TV, radio, blogs, email lists, etc.–to blast away at these two candidates.
Also, readers concluded that I was arguing that this was a positive development, but that really wasn’t my point. I was just making the objective observation that influencial conservatives threw everything but the kitchen sink at these guys, and yet they were able to succeed anyway, so I wonder whether future Republican candidate will decide that rather than trying to curry favor with all of these conservative groups, they should just take their case to the voters. I happen to think it’s a good thing for candidates to appeal to the Club for Growth or Americans for Tax Reform, because I tend to agree with those organizations.
Nonetheless, the hostility in the repsonse to my article reinforces the fact that even if he wins the nomination with pluralities, McCain will have a lot of work to do to win over disgruntled conservatives who can’t stand him. And there are some he just will never win over.