Well, OK, National Review is hardly a Republican-In-Name-Only magazine except in the context that they focus on conservatism more than party politics. The publication founded by William F. Buckley didn’t get enthusiastic about John McCain in 2008’s primaries, either — and they’re not exactly enthusiastic now, either. Instead, the editors have decided to endorse the incumbent in Arizona because of the lack of a better choice (via Jim Geraghty):
That this magazine has not always agreed with Sen. John McCain’s judgments is an understatement. For a few years at the start of the decade, not an issue went by, it seemed, without our feeling obligated to criticize the Arizona Republican. That conservatives in his state should be in the market for a senator who agrees with them more consistently is not remarkable. …
Hayworth is, to say the least, not obviously a more exemplary statesman than McCain. On one of the most pressing issues of the day — the need to control federal spending — McCain has had the better record. That Hayworth appeared in infomercials to tell people how to get “free money” from the government underscores the point rather emphatically.
If McCain had a different challenger, we might think differently. But, taken together, these considerations move us to suggest that Arizona Republicans nominate Senator McCain. If ever we needed legislators who favor a resolute foreign policy and budget restraint, that time is now.
This will no doubt make some of those who despise McCain rather angry, and accuse NR of being too inside-the-Beltway for true conservatism. (Their offices are in New York, which probably won’t make a difference in that argument.) And this endorsement leaves a couple of big holes open. It doesn’t mention, for instance, McCain’s vacillations on immigration reform and offer any advice on whether his new hard-line position can be trusted. Nor does it address McCain’s most egregious blot on his record, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, known better as McCain-Feingold. The BCRA was a blatant violation of the First Amendment, belatedly recognized by the Supreme Court as such, and conservatives should not forget it.
However, it’s difficult to see Hayworth as a big improvement, a conclusion that polling in Arizona suggests voters also share. His handling of the controversy over the ads he did for a company that defrauded customers with promises of “free money” from government grants shows that Hayworth has his own issues of credibility and reliability. Flirtations with the extremes of the Right, momentary as they were, also suggest that Hayworth doesn’t have the judgment necessary for the post.
McCain has now arguably gotten endorsements from grassroots via Sarah Palin and the intellectual conservative establishment via National Review. Is that enough to get Republicans across the nation behind McCain for one more term in the Senate?