Is McCain the New Giuliani?

With Rudy Giuliani’s campaign tanking all around the country, the Religious Right’s fears about a possible Giuliani victory appear to have been eased and they seem to have moved on from their incessant warnings that they would never support him and would, in fact, actively oppose him.

But just because Giuliani is fading from the picture doesn’t mean that the Right is placated. If anything, some right wing leaders seem to be growing increasingly fearful that another bête noire, John McCain, is emerging as a front-runner:

Paul M. Weyrich, national chairman of Sixty Votes Coalition PAC, says if the November choice is between Hillary Clinton and McCain, he would then look for a third party candidate whom he could back. This is no small matter. Weyrich has only one vote like the rest of us, but many conservatives would at least take his views into consideration when making up their own minds before casting their ballots.

“I will not vote for him [McCain],” Weyrich told this column in an interview. “I can’t” … Weyrich could live with other prospective GOP nominees — in a couple of cases, hopefully gaining some concessions to the conservative position. But McCain — never.

The Right has never much liked or trusted McCain and any possibility of ever winning them over was probably doomed with he called Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell “agents of intolerance” back in 2000. Of course, that didn’t stop McCain from trying to make nice with many of them this time around, even if his efforts were half-hearted.

But nothing has rankled the Right quite like McCain’s role in the “Gang of 14” and they have never trusted him on the issue of judges in general, despite his pledges to “appoint justices such as Justice Roberts and Justice Alito.”

Some on the Right think they have good reason not to trust McCain on this issue:

Then there is the issue of judicial nominations, a top priority with conservatives. Nothing would improve Mr. McCain’s standing with conservatives more than a forthright restatement of his previously stated view that “one of our greatest problems in America today is justices that legislate from the bench.” Mr. McCain bruised his standing with conservatives on the issue when in 2005 he became a key player in the so-called gang of 14, which derailed an effort to end Democratic filibusters of Bush judicial nominees. More recently, Mr. McCain has told conservatives he would be happy to appoint the likes of Chief Justice John Roberts to the Supreme Court. But he indicated he might draw the line on a Samuel Alito, because “he wore his conservatism on his sleeve.”

Not surprisingly, this quote has been making its way around the right-wing blogosphere and the McCain campaign is desperately trying to back-peddle.

The GOP and the Right may have thought they had dodged a bullet with Giuliani’s fading campaign, but with McCain’s rise in the polls, it looks as if they could be right back where they started.