So Giuliani dubbed the GOP the “party of Bush” on the night that McCain won out over Romney 36-31 and the day before Giuliani endorses McCain. That is unfortunately fitting, as it is only the “party of Bush” that could have ever briefly vaulted someone like Giuliani into major contention or propelled McCain to his frontrunner position (for a second time), since the presence of these two in national roles is almost unthinkable without Mr. Bush, the Iraq war and the ruinous transformation Mr. Bush has wrought in the party. Why the most plausible anti-McCain candidates have fared poorly is part of my next column, so I will hold off on that point, but I can make this observation: two-thirds of Florida primary voters opted for the candidates deemed unacceptable to one or more factions of the party, while the alleged “full-spectrum conservative” could scarcely cobble together 30% of the vote. Once again, in a real contest Romney fell short and has shown his limitations as a campaigner. The party of Bush has discovered its true heir, who represents clear continuity with Mr. Bush on the major policies (and major blunders) of his administration. Whether he did so consciously or not, Thompson delivered the killing blow to the efforts to stop McCain. His last-ditch anti-Huckabee salvo cleared the way for McCain, and the way is now clear for him all the way to Minneapolis. The disastrous “new fusionism” has taken hold of the party and will in all likelihood drag it down to defeat.
P.S. It is true that the exit polls show that McCain’s strongest support comes from anti-Bush voters. Once again, he did best among those who were dissatisfied and angry with the administration. This represents a deep confusion and sickness in the Republican Party, when even most of the people who are alienated by Mr. Bush seem to have no idea that they have just rallied around someone who give them a more intensified, less sane version of Bushism.