If he’s the nominee, I actually don’t think repairing relations with conservatives is going to be his biggest problem. His biggest problem is going to be the one that Romney has identified over the last few weeks–he doesn’t seem to care about economics enough to have developed and internalized a compelling message on it, and he isn’t a particularly credible messenger either. He may have a weakness on domestic policy as a whole. He has played a big role on some issues, but typically his interventions have not required a great deal of study. I’m not sure he can pull that off all year.
Most observers, including me, have been stressing the ways in which McCain differs from Bush. But in some respects McCain is more like Bush than Romney is like either man. Neither McCain nor Bush gets into the weeds of policy. Both can be stubborn. Personal loyalty plays a very big role in their decisions. We’ll see if it works out better this time.