Matthew Yglesias says a conservative finally explained to his satisfaction why the right is leery of John McCain. According to this unnamed conservative, it goes like this: A McCain victory will be a personal victory; he won’t owe the conservative activist base; he doesn’t get along with the Republican leadership. This means McCain will be mightily tempted to reach grand compromises with the Democrats on domestic policy to ensure a freer hand on foreign policy.
This sounds fair, though I’d probably also add that McCain’s relationship with the press and voting record for a bit after 2001 have also contributed. Yglesias asks, however, why Mitt Romney wouldn’t have been just as bad, given his history of compromising with Democrats in Massachusetts.
Of course, Romney may have been no better. Certainly, many people exaggerated his conservative credentials compared to McCain, not least of all the candidate himself. But Republicans held less than 20 percent of the state legislative seats while Romney was governor. His need to compromise with Democrats isn’t exactly comparable to McCain’s. And there is also the not insignificant fact that Romney spent his entire presidential bid trying to persuade movement conservatives he was one of them. In the process, he gained a lot of conservatives’ trust — rightly or wrongly — in a way that McCain hasn’t yet.