McCain worked during the primaries to emphasize aspects of himself with appeal to independents and centrist Democrats. It was a calculation, his conservative critics say, based largely on his assumption that the Democrats would nominate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, who's so deeply loathed by movement conservatives that they would have swallowed hard and embraced McCain for the sake of her defeat.
But Obama doesn't generate nearly as much visceral disdain. [...]
The National Rifle Association (NRA), for example, has struggled to convince members that McCain is the candidate most supportive of gun rights. After the NRA sent out an e-mail last month attacking Obama, the group was surprised by the backlash it received. "Amazingly, some people still don't believe Obama is radically anti-gun," a follow-up message sent the next week said. "Some have gone so far as to claim that NRA was actually misrepresenting Obama's anti-gun positions."
I find that last anecdote especially illustrative and interesting, given what Senior Editor Jacob Sullum has described as Obama's "toothless" view of the Second Amendment. It's a classic example of how few things are as politically potent as the Benefit of the Doubt, something that McCain has long banked on but that Obama might have in deeper reserve this time around, due to his blanker slate and hopier hopetasticness.