There were four developments that got conservatives into this mess — the inexcusable increase of federal spending from 2001-05 (that gave mendacious Democrats room to fabricate that the tax cuts had caused the red ink), the sordid scandals of 2005-7, the tentativeness in the war (cf. the 1st pull-back from Fallujah, the reprieve to Sadr, the retreat to compounds in 2006, etc), and the complete unwillingness to close the border. McCain was involved with only one of these.
On these four critical issues, would McCain be far better than Clinton or Obama? He is good on earmarks and pork barrel spending, and hates deficits; he is without scandal and, while terribly wrong on McCain-Feingold, is a corruption fighter; and he is aggressive on the war and wants to win. The problem with his prior support of immigration “reform” was not just that it would lead to ever more illegals and make a mockery out of past federal law, but that he either ignored criticism or impugned the motives of those who were genuinely worried about open borders and the travesty of the law, but themselves were neither racists nor without compassion.
So on 3 of 4 critical issues, McCain in strong, and on the 4th he is now on record in speeches and ads that he would close the borders first. His views on religion, abortion, gay marriage, guns, etc. please mainstream conservatives; on global warming, Guantanamo, campaign financing, etc. hardly.
How then to recapture the base? I don’t think the attitude “they have nowhere else to go” or “we don’t want to lose moderates by moving right” will work, especially if Obama is the nominee.
It would be better to get a base conservative on the ticket. And when you look around at the necessary requisites: youth to balance McCain’s age; strong base support; energetic; an experienced campaigner; not afraid to mix it up; geographical balance; economic experience and Wall Street fides; you inevitably keep coming back to Romney.
He would unite the party, not just by gaining the VP spot, but by acknowledgment that he would then be best positioned to assume the top spot after McCain. It would reassure conservatives on immigration, tax cuts, etc. And Romney’s last two weeks of speeches revealed a charismatic figure unlike that seen most of the campaign.
Their animus is no greater than between Bush I (“voodoo economics”) and Reagan in 1980, but would be a genuine gesture on the part of McCain, to think of the base and swallow his seeming anger at Romney.
The alternative is a Republican loss, and likely increased Democratic control of the Congress and soon a trifecta with the Supreme Court.
We would witness a new generation of European-like tax increases, unnecessary new programs, negotiated or unilateral surrender in Iraq, loss of what has been achieved in preventing another 9/11 (a return to the Sandy Berger/Albright response to terrorists in the late 1990s when our embassies were leveled and Pakistan got the bomb), 2-3 far Left Supreme Court justices, and the race/class/gender industry given official sanction.
The idea that feuding conservatives would each not make some sort of concessions to prevent all that is lunatic.