Trouble on the Straight Talk Express


In the last 24 hours, John McCain's 2008 presidential hopes were dealt two heavy, self-inflicted blows. First, Brian Bilbray won the special election in California's 50th district. Democrat Francine Busby had endorsed McCain's immigration bill, running footage of the senator in her ads as she discussed how she'd protect the border. On May 31 McCain was scheduled to appear at a fundraiser for Bilbray, but he pulled out at the last minute in either a pique or a strategic decision over Bilbray's opposition to the Senate immigration bill. (It depends whose spin you believe.) That could have redounded to McCain's benefit if Busby won. But she didn't.

This morning McCain broke with his party again and voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment. It was a principled stance, the same vote he cast in 2004, but it represented another break with the mainstream of his party.

The easy take on these votes is that McCain is looking ahead to the fall 2008 campaign and wants to keep a balanced portfolio of votes. His immigration views, at least, are in line with the majority of Americans. But unless Rudy Giuliani also runs, McCain will probably be the only Republican candidate on record against the FMA. He's surely the only candidate who'll willfully piss off other Republicans in the stretch before a critical election. If McCain actually loses the Republican nomination in two years, stuff like this will be the cause.

If you missed Michael Lynch's hard-hitting takedown of candidate McCain in 1999, it's right here.