Daniel Larison, in response to Bill Kristol’s suggestion that Palin campaign for McCain in the Arizona Senate primary, writes:
Were she to side openly with McCain in a primary against Hayworth, whose views match up a lot more closely with her supporters’ views, she would be seen as imitating McCain’s worst habits. She would be considered a worse sell-out than McCain. She would be doing exactly the opposite of what she did in NY-23. Her intervention may have failed to elect Hoffman, but rank-and-file conservatives generally loved her for it anyway. She would fritter all that away if she backed McCain. In exchange for the contempt and disaffection of the people who currently adore her, she would win the enduring affection of editors at The Weekly Standard. McCain seems to be satisfied with this, but I doubt it would be enough for Palin.
There is not much nuance to Larison’s thinking here. It’s completely absurd to compare the NY-23 Congressional race to the Arizona Senate primary, because beyond the broad outlines — a race between an establishment candidate and a conservative insurgent — there are few similarities. Scozzafava was not a moderate, she was a liberal who ultimately endorsed the Democrat anyway. It was not a matter of one issue — she held liberal views on abortion, pledged to vote for “card check,” and called the cops on a reporter who asked whether she would vote for a health care bill that raised taxes. McCain is pro-life. He has been firmly against “card check” to the point where he has actually blocked the nomination of Craig Becker to serve on the National Labor Relations Board (Becker is an SEIU lawyer who has written that “card check” could be implemented by the NLRB without Congressional action). He voted against the economic stimulus bill. And he has been adamantly against the health care bill. There’s also the distinction between losing a single House seat and losing a Senate seat that could mean the difference between giving Obama a rubber stamp in the Senate or perhaps gaining a few seats next year to be able to effectively block anything major that Obama proposes. And while it was realistic to think that Hoffman could have a chance of winning, there’s less reason to believe that J.D. Hayworth — who couldn’t win a Congressional race — could win statewide. Now, I’ve had my share of issues with McCain over the years and am not going to argue that he’s a perfect conservative. And for those who see immigration as such a crucial issue to them that they have to support Hayworth as a matter of conscience, I’m not going to tell them not to. But for Larison to sugeest that for Palin to keep in the good graces of her base, she has to back the more conservative candidate in every single race, no matter what other circumstances are in play, is totally ludicrous.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Palin supporters — especially when I’ve criticized her — it’s that they are generally very forgiving of her and willing to cut her a lot of slack. Ever since she burst onto the scene, I’ve been trying, to no avail, to argue that we shouldn’t compare her to Ronald Reagan when he spent decades studying conservative philosophy and defending it and served two terms as governor of California, and she has a very slim governing record and it’s unclear whether she’s really a committed small government conservative. Even though I avoid the personal vitriol that has consumed much of the anti-Palin commentary and try to raise what I see as fair questions about her qualifications to be president, her acceptance of pork spending, her initial support for the “Bridge to Nowhere,” etc., I’m brandished an elitist RINO who should shut up and go back to my brie and chablis. This is a long way of saying that it would take a lot more than backing McCain over Hayworth for Palin’s supporters to view her as a “sell-out.”
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