mccain2.jpgHas the conservative opposition–particularly social conservative opposition–to John McCain been overstated? The Politico reports that polls have McCain exactly where George W. Bush was among conservatives at this point during his first White House run:

Although John McCain’s candidacy is still viewed with suspicion by many conservative leaders, polling suggests he has overcome the concerns of rank-and-file conservatives: McCain isn’t viewed more unfavorably by conservative voters today than George W. Bush was at this point in the 2000 election cycle.
In the latest CBS News/New York Times poll, 18 percent of conservatives said they have an unfavorable view of McCain. The same percentage expressed an unfavorable view of Bush in CBS News polls conducted in March and April of 2000; higher percentages of conservatives held unfavorable views of Bob Dole and George H.W. Bush at similar points in 1996 and 1988, respectively….
In August 2007, 60 percent of conservatives surveyed by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press said they had a favorable view of McCain. Eighty-seven percent had a favorable view of Bush.
Today, McCain’s favorability rating among conservatives has climbed to 78 percent, while Bush’s has dropped to 83 percent.

Are McCain’s religious conservative detractors–including Focus on the Family’s James Dobson and many powerful state-level activists with less recognizable names–the ones out of touch with the GOP’s base, rather than McCain?
Could be. But God-o-Meter is struck by the number of influential conservatives quoted in this Politico piece who admit their support for McCain is reluctant and less than enthusiastic. It’s not that they like McCain. It’s that they’ve grown to respect him, presumably because of his compelling military biography and his commitment to charting his own political course, including his shocking comeback in this race.
And despite the new poll numbers, the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, is still bearish on McCain because of his failure to inspire the GOP’s evangelical machinery:

“I look at the three choices that are out there, it’s a pretty clear choice for me, the issues I care about as an individual or an organization. However, that’s different than seeing an enthusiastic support among social conservatives around the country.”

God-o-Meter tends to agree. If McCain wins the White House without that enthusiastic support from the GOP’s evangelical activists, the Christian Right will have to fight very hard to prove it’s relevancy. But in an election in which Democratic activists are highly motivated, God-o-Meter thinks the GOP’s evangelical get-out-the-vote machinery could be more important than ever. And that’s what the polls miss: how dormant that that machinery is at the moment, because McCain is at the top of the ticket.


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