In the final paragraphs she gets to her real point, which is that John McCain just isn’t conservative enough, and by damn he ought to be looking for a VP with conservative culture warrior credentials like Howard’s.
Here’s where we see the social conservative arm of the Republican party reap what it has sown over the past decades of pandering to the fundegelical extremists: talented but socially moderate candidates can’t stand the condemnation theatre required in order to appeal to the fundegelicals (and therefore don’t run), and the true believers who try and gain the nation’s confidence are quite rightly rejected as their prurient obsession with other people’s private choices scares voters away. This leaves the GOP with the only viable candidate likely to get out the base being a panderer like McCain, who might con the credulous but doesn’t satisfy the serious culture warriors who see him as a RINO (Republican In Name Only).
She’s probably right that unless McCain chooses a full-on conservative culture warrior as his VP running-mate, he won’t win the election in November, because many of the fundegelical “base” will stay at home rather than vote. I’m just hoping that the problem I’ve outlined above continues to bite the GOP in the arse – candidates are either fundegelical OR widely attractive to the broader electorate, not both.
Howard’s success in winning over the voters as a conservative leader was that he did not appear too religious, and he knew just how to appeal to the wallet-voters while whipping up the FUD-factor: Australian voters mainly did not vote for his actual conservative ideologies at all, and conservatives elsewhere should take note of what happened when Howard finally rolled out his fiscally conservative reforms of the labour market. Australia couldn’t get rid of him fast enough.
With the main source of FUD for the USA at the moment being the tanking economy, I somehow doubt the ability of McCain to generate the right combination of wallet-appeal and only-McCain-can-protect you momentum to emulate Howard’s electoral victories. McCain losing the presidential election will be a good thing in the long run, but unfortunately the looming recession is going to hurt many Americans (as well as the rest of the world that shivers when America sneezes). That sucks.