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The conservative revolt over McCain

In November, many GOP voters may stay home – or even vote Democratic.

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John McCain is a tough guy and an American hero. He proved it in Vietnam, where he resisted torture for five years as a prisoner of war. His grit showed up again last year when his campaign for the White House nearly died. He fought back, and now he's on top.

Yet Senator McCain may finally have met his match.

McCain's problem is conservatives. Not just a few conservatives. Millions of them.

Many conservatives don't like his policies and they are speaking up – and looking elsewhere.

Demanding ideological purity in this way can be dangerous, of course. Today's conservative agony brings back memories of 1964, when Barry Goldwater – the author of "Conscience of a Conservative" – snared the Republican presidential nomination from the liberal wing of the party, only to lose in a historic landslide to Lyndon Johnson.

Yet it could be equally dangerous for McCain to dismiss the current unrest on the right. Most Republicans – some 60 percent of them – describe themselves as conservative or strongly conservative.

In campaigns, these conservatives aren't just voters, they are the foot soldiers. David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, says it is mostly conservative volunteers who "knock on doors, drag their neighbors to the polls, make phone calls, and contribute money. McCain's got to generate that kind of enthusiasm or he's got trouble," says Mr. Keene, who has decades of experience in conservative politics.


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