John McCain continues to stumble in the high wire balancing act of pre-primary presidential politics. It's gotta be tough though. The guy enjoyed 20+ years of "maverick" status and adulation from Independents and conservative Democrats while representing the centrist Republican ideals. It was what enabled him to clean up on George W. Bush in some key primaries in the 2000 Presidential race, but also what led a vast swath of religious fundies and Big Business shills to run screaming into W's arms. Losing them means losing the Republican nomination. So what's he willing to do to win them over and at what cost?
Today, McCain seems intent on keeping the lunatic fringe of the Republican Right, even at the expense of Indies and centrist Dems. His embrace (literally and politically) of George W. Bush over the last few years and his outreach to those evangelical leaders he once tagged as "agents of intolerance" has left many scratching their heads and wondering where the Straight Talk Express has gone?
In a desperate attempt to woo the influential founder of Focus on the Family, McCain has backtracked on one of his premier issues: campaign finance reform. He's agreed to gut his own Lobbying Transparency Act of 2005, which would have required disclosure of grassroots advocacy activities paid for by lobbyists, to remove that provision. Dobson and other religious fundamental organizations rely on these sorts of grassroots arrangements to fund their activities and organize their followers. According to the Hill, "Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has told conservative activists that he will vote to strip a key provision on grassroots lobbying from the reform package he previously supported."
And how did Dobson show his appreciation? By saying, "he wouldn't support the Republican's presidential bid under any circumstances." In an apparent reference to the Transparency Act, Dobson said:
The 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance legislation stifled "Christian radio" and "kept us from telling the truth right before elections."
But what's really bugging Dobson is McCain's long history of supporting centrist positions on social issues.
"He is not in favor of traditional marriage and I pray that we will not get stuck with him," said Dobson.
And there's the balance McCain can't seem to find. Try though he might to appeal to social conservatives and religious fundies he has this past that he can't outrun. The irony being his attempt to outrun that past undermines his credibility with those who loved that maverick persona to begin with.
It's enough to make you wonder what he's willing to give up to be President, doesn't it?