Conservatives and John McCain have an uneasy alliance and deservedly so. Yet it seems to me it is a chasm that can be bridged.
I was impressed by McCain Friday at a small gathering of Illinois conservatives I attended. Although I won't get into specific conversations because the session was not for attribution, it was clear that on many core issues McCain and conservatives are in agreement.
It is no secret that McCain's problems with conservatives mainly stem from his advocacy of campaign finance reform and his reputation for pandering to the national press, which most conservatives distrust.
My biggest complaint with McCain has been the latter issue. However, his recent firm stand on behalf of winning the war in Iraq has given me a new perspective on McCain. Without flinching, he is throwing away his beltway bonafides to do the right thing. That's worth a lot these days as politicians of both parties try to straddle all dimensions of the war issue without regard for the propaganda fodder they are giving our enemies.
Another observation on McCain: he's clearly not the celebrity candidate any more. He's not that good at sound bites and while he is a decent communicator, he's not smooth. What he has is a sincerity that stands apart from most of the top presidential candidates. Whether that quality will be decisive is hard to say. There's a long way to go.
If the American people choose McCain it will signal they have left the mind warp they are in right now and have become serious again about the threats that face us.
Some conservatives at that meeting will not support McCain because of issue differences. I have not decided who our best nominee is. I am convinced that having such a serious, tested patriot in the race is in the best interest of all Americans, regardless of where they stand on the political spectrum.