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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

McCain’s Trial; Romney’s Gut Check

It should be an interesting day in Washington at the annual meeting of the Conservative Political Action Committee, that hardy redoubt of the Hard Right. The big event is at 3:00 p.m., EST, when John McCain addresses the group. At last year’s CPAC gathering, McCain was the one GOP presidential candidate who didn’t bother to show up (even Rudy Giuliani appeared in order to bend the knee); every reference to him from the podium drew lusty boos.
Now he’s closing in on the Republican presidential nomination amidst the dashed dreams of many conservative activists, and he has to decide whether he wants to assuage the crowd with some tasty panders, or accept their wrath and cash it in for some general election credibility. Actually, he may do neither, and instead take the advice of Kate O’Beirne and Ramesh Ponnuru, who suggest that he spend his time at CPAC lashing the Democratic foe, in hopes that most conservatives won’t follow Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, and James Dobson in threatening to take a dive in November.
McCain’s trial is complicated somewhat by the fact that Mitt Romney will speak at CPAC several hours earlier. And the Mittster, of course, has his own tough decisions to make. Does he challenge McCain with a fiery speech demanding that conservatives stick to their prejudices and reject the Arizonan? Or does he start making those conciliatory noises necessary to slowly fold his tent, save some money, and keep his options open for a future presidential run? After his CPAC address, Romney has the unpleasant task of trudging up Capitol Hill to meet with the hordes of GOP members of Congress who endorsed his candidacy. He’ll have to come up with something better to say than: “Stick with me til the accountants say it’s time to quit.”

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