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McCain's Base Problem

John McCain has been the nominee of his party for over a month now. He has no active opposition, no figure on his side of the aisle contesting him for leadership of the Republican party and the conservative movement.

And yet, Republicans are still voting against him. In Indiana McCain pulled in 77% of the vote, and he made an even worse showing with 73% in North Carolina. Even more troubling for McCain is that Huckabee is the leading protest vote. That's the religious right vote, the anti-choice crowd and the bedrock of President Bush's re-election victory.

In 2004 the GOP got the vote out by riling up the religious right and wooing the moderate middle. Post-Katrina and post-Iraq they have lost the middle. The press image of McCain as a maverick helps them with the middle, but they've still lost it. The religious right is mostly disgusted with the GOP - they haven't kept up their end of the bargain. The religious right lined up behind the GOP to ban abortion, negate gay rights, and violate the separation of church and state. In exchange for that, the religious right was okay with allowing the business class to take their pound of flesh. But the GOP had the House, Senate, and White House and while they did enough at the edges of those issues they did not remake America into a theocracy.

John McCain does not inspire these people. Ambivalent at best about his faith, he is not the "God warrior" Bush pretends to be. He is very much the Bob Dole candidate. McCain is the "his turn" guy and in Obama he is going up against the first Democratic candidate in a long while who has the base of voters who are really for their guy.

The religious right is not going to move Democratic, but like in 2006 they are probably going to stay home while the Democratic base is poised to make the turnout in 2004 seem like training camp. The religious right's relationship with the GOP isn't just yet a divorce, but Mommy and Daddy are for sure on a break.