Regarding McCain, I’m with Atrios on this one:
The authoritarian cultists are looking around for a new cult leader and they're a bit tired of the last one. We've reached the end of the days of Republicanism=Bushism, and people are now desperate to redefine it. McCain's neither impressing Republican primary voters nor burnishing his maverick credentials. Sad pandering politician near the end of his career and he doesn't even know it.
McCain’s big mistake occurred during the 2000 election when he decided to drop-out and embrace Bush. That was the beginning of his sell-out streak. He had made a reputation by opposing Bush when no one was supposed to oppose him and earned a label as a straight-shooting maverick by his media admirers. And it’s only been the media’s love of favored stories that has allowed him to continue relishing in the straight-shooting maverick reputation that he entirely cast-off after he embraced Bush. And the very fact that he made such a lousy political calculation only proved that he never deserved that reputation in the first place.
Even if Bush had remained popular throughout his presidency and had been allowed to name his successor, it could not have been McCain. Perhaps Rove smooth-talked McCain into having such thoughts, but the Bush Way has always relied on double-dealing, treachery, and strong-arm tactics to ensure wide agreement. And those things are the exact opposite of the techniques needed to be a straight-shooting maverick, even if that itself was just a cheap façade. Sure, Bush himself has always had a similar such reputation, but I suspect that the media always regarded that as a polite fiction; and saw McCain as being the Real Deal. But by embracing Bush and Bush’s style of victory, McCain has completely discarded that façade. While the media has remained enamored with the fictional McCain they created, the Republican base will not embrace him as the Next Bush; even assuming they wanted another Bush…which they apparently do not.
Had McCain remained the maverick outsider striving to keep the Bushies honest (a sort of politically savvy Ralph Nader), McCain might be just the guy that Republicans might choose in the post-Bush era. But by deciding to take the fast-track in Bush’s shadow, McCain will likely remain there. That’s not to suggest that the next Republican presidential nominee won’t be a Bushie or a maverick. It’s just that McCain’s straight-shooting sell-out routine just isn’t going to work; not in a Republican primary, anyway. He’s trying to straddle two horses at once and is just going to find himself left behind in the dust. Or to take another cowboy analogy, it looks like the straight-shooter just shot himself in the foot.