Nancy Reagan endorses McCain early

All of the pushback against John McCain’s talk of being a foot soldier in the Reagan Revolution might get silenced with an unexpectedly early endorsement from Nancy Reagan. Usually, as she herself acknowledges, she waits for the convention to support the Republican nominee. Nancy wants to start bridging the gap that has opened between McCain and conservatives now rather than at the end of August:

Former first lady Nancy Reagan planned to endorse John McCain for president on Tuesday, as the Arizona senator continued to collect the backing of leading Republicans who might help him win over critical conservative voters.

Now certain to win the GOP nomination, McCain is on the West coast this week to raise money. He was to stop by the Southern California home of former President Ronald Reagan’s widow to accept her endorsement.

In a statement before the event, Reagan said she typically waits until after the GOP convention to announce her support but she decided to do so now because it is clear the Republican Party has chosen its nominee.

“John McCain has been a good friend for over thirty years,” Reagan said. “My husband and I first came to know him as a returning Vietnam War POW, and were impressed by the courage he had shown through his terrible ordeal. I believe John’s record and experience have prepared him well to be our next president.”

Will Nancy’s efforts make an impact on disaffected conservatives? Obviously, McCain hopes it will. His campaign made a quick adjustment to their schedule to include a public appearance with the former First Lady. A photo op will take place this afternoon, as McCain had already been in California on a fundraising tour.

Liz Sidoti of the AP notes that McCain might hope to win some Reagan Democrats with Nancy’s endorsement, but that’s probably not going to have the same kind of impact on moderates. Nancy had been a polarizing figure during Reagan’s tenure, unfairly so, given the later performance of sleep-deprived presidential spouses. McCain already does well with independents and moderates, but he needs Reagan’s mantle for the conservatives who remain skeptical of McCain on several issues.