Horserace has been keeping a close eye on the relationship between John McCain and the two vocal groups on the right largely opposed to his candidacy – establishment conservatives and right-wing talk show hosts. Today brings mixed news for McCain on that front.
The New York Times reports that some of McCain's conservative critics – among them Christian conservative Tony Perkins, the Southern Baptist Convention's Richard Land, and antitax crusader Grover Norquist -- are warming to the senator.
"When I hear Rush Limbaugh say that a McCain nomination would destroy the Republican Party," the Times quotes Land saying, "what I want to say to Rush is, 'You need to get out of the studio more and talk to real people.'"
McCain consistently casts himself as a conservative, but his past positions on campaign finance reform, the Bush tax cuts, immigration, and other issues have angered some on the right. He is trying to repair the rift, having committed to speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, an important gathering for movement conservatives that he skipped last year, next week.
But there are still plenty of conservatives, particularly in the talk show-host ranks, who have not exactly embraced a McCain candidacy. Radio host Laura Ingraham and former Sen. Rick Santorum today backed Mitt Romney, and on Fox News yesterday, controversial right-wing pundit Ann Coulter vowed that if John McCain and Hillary Clinton are the two parties' presidential nominees, she'll be campaigning for the Democrat.
"If he's our candidate, then Hillary's going to be our girl, Sean, 'cause she's more conservative than he is," Coulter told Fox News host Sean Hannity. "I think she would be stronger on the war on terrorism."
"I would trust any Republican but John McCain more than Hillary Clinton," she added. "If it's John McCain, Hillary is absolutely more conservative."