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Stephen C. Rose Headshot

Will McCain Be Nominated?

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My wife and I have more journalism experience between us than either of us like to count, and we do not always march in lockstep on issues, but on one possible outcome of this election season we are moving closer and closer to agreement -- McCain may not end up being nominated. I am not saying the odds are 50/50 but they are moving in that direction. The reason is simple.

The man is outdoing Hillary Clinton in underestimating his opponent.

He is failing to register on the same points that Hillary Clinton failed on.

And he is demonstrating not one scintilla of Hillary Clinton's capacity to be a comeback kid and sock it to Barack Obama with heart and fire.

If he is not nominated, and I am excluding health and accident from this consideration, it will be because of a spontaneous revolution among Republicans at their September Convention. Or before.

The grounds will be the certainty that not only McCain but the entire slate of Republican candidates faces the very worst of defeats. A coattails-free fall.

Any efforts to attack Barack Obama with swiftboat ferocity will meet with an onslought of artistic and intellectual and emotional video-making that will permanently render the outmoded Republican win methodology obsolete. We will not take it anymore.

Any effort of McCain to create a coherent message seems subject to almost daily subversion, either by his surrogates or by his ambient record which registers on both sides of every issue.

McCain's presence on a daily basis seems to be declining in conviction, in heart, in a real caring about the issues. It is of a piece with his lackadaisical Tom and Jerry routine with the droning Joe Lieberman.

If this seems cruel, it is not meant to be. I actually find little to admire in McCain and I find it a sad commentary that people like Michael Kinsley have written adulatory things about him. But the real cruelty to McCain is being done by McCain. We are witnessing a daily denouement.

When the denouement is complete, we really will have a Wizard of Oz -- a fellow who has winged it all his life, with the aid of fast repartee, an instinct for a camaraderie of derision and the odd luck of being able to parlay experience in Vietnam into a highly lucrative if morally compromising career.

If and when McCain is tossed out by the party he has little use for, and which has little use for him, he will be replaced by another Bush, a Romney, whoever. He will resign following an epiphany, evoking understanding and sympathy.

Will the Republicans be able to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat by doing this?

I do not think that will be the issue. If the Republicans can feel they have somehow made the conservative case with a real conservative, they can endure a Goldwater-sized defeat and come back.

But if McCain leads them to defeat after a convention based on palpable hypocrisy and a candidate they know not whether to believe, then they will not merely be defeated but doubly done in in a calamity of their own making.

It really comes down to how the Republicans want to lose.