Red Flag Number Two: Also in the wake of the Massachusetts special election, the nation’s most popular conservative political figure, Sarah Palin, announced she would be campaigning for her former running mate in Arizona in March. Palin told Facebook followers that she’s going to “ride the tide with commonsense candidates” and help “heroes and statesmen” like McCain. Facing mounting conservative opposition in his home state and polls showing him virtually tied with possible GOP challenger and former Rep. J.D. Hayworth, McCain welcomed the boost: “Sarah energized our nation and remains a leading voice in the Republican Party.”

Savor the irony: After a career spent bashing the right flank of the party, Sen. McCain is now clinging to its coattails to save his incumbent hide.

And pay attention to the hidden, more troubling irony: While he runs to the right to protect his seat, McCain’s political machine is working across the country to install liberal and establishment Republicans to secure his legacy.