At the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York I sat alongside members of the Kentucky delegation as John McCain addressed the convention.
McCain seemed to say all the right things. He glossed over whatever differences he may have had with "W" and reaped high praise on the President and the accomplishments of his first term.
But Kentucky was having none of it. In fact, two grande dames of the GOP sitting next to me sat on their hands throughout McCain's speech. I asked one of them why they were not responding. "Don't like him," she replied. "Can't trust him." I didn't press the matter since neither one of my blue-haired friends seemed to want to say anything further. As long as McCain was on the podium, they remained disengaged.
I encountered much the same thing on the floor of the GOP Convention in Philadelphia in 2000 where McCain seemed to garner a mixed reception at best.
I realize that John McCain is very popular with independents and even with many Democrats. But McCain has always had a problem with the party faithful. And he's never been popular with Ronald Reagan conservatives.
On the Mark Levin radio program the other day former Senator Rick Santorum pointed out that McCain voted against the Bush tax cuts and gave voice to the conservative view when he said he thought that nominating McCain would "create a 'huge rift' in the Republican Party."
"I think he’s been solid in the war on terror," Santorum added "… but on domestic policy, he’s very, very dangerous for Republicans. There’s nothing worse than having a Democratic Congress and a Republican president who would act like a Democrat in matters that are important to conservatives.”
Still, one might ask: How will the GOP find a way to win if it doesn't reach out to independents and some Democrats? And in the end, isn't that the lesson of Santorum's failed quest for re-election?