Reading the comments to a blog post Jonathan Martin wrote about anti-Mormon remarks made by John McCain's 95-year-old mother, I was again struck by how different the Democratic and Republican primary races have been. On the Dem side, I think most voters have largely positive views of the three major candidates. (Sure, there's some Hillary hatred, but I think even most who dislike her feel a grudging respect for her.) On the GOP side, by contrast, it often feels as though people are more passionate about the candidates they oppose than the ones they support. Obviously blog commenters are far from a representative sample of voters--especially with regard to their political ferocity--but I nonetheless found the exchange on Maertin's blog telling:

Yep, McCains a biggot. He is the product of his loud mouth mother. Now we know where he got his loud mouth from ....

you romney freaks saying the author of this blog is anti-mitt, are you people clueless? most of the republican candidates hate mitt romney; most republicans hate him, in fact. no one respects a man who one election is running to the left of ted kennedy and ten years later talks about how evil it is for gays to be parents. romney's a joke....

As a Latter-day Saint, I am not surprised to see that John McCain's mother is bigoted against us; McCain's conduct has made it clear that he is prejudiced against Mormons, but enough of us live in Arizona that he is forced to pretend he likes us, despite so many instances of bigotry seeping through the cracks....

mccain and i disagree on immigration, but at least he has real positions. what does romney have? the fact that hes only had one wife? yeah, i guess for mormons that is a big feat huh?...

were you aware that Sen. McCain said he did not favor overturning Roe v Wade? When he changed his mind, he was much older than Romney is. If there is so much to dislike, what appealed to you in the first place? *cough liar cough*...

Personally I tend to think that this line was hardly a senile lady popping off. The 3rd party stab and magnanimous recovery by the candidate is a very old trick.

There's been a lot of discussion (and rightly so) about whether the social conservative vote will be depressed if Giuliani is the nominee. But I can't help but wonder whether there might be smaller variation of this phenomenon regardless of who gets the nomination. There are a lot of Republicans who actively loathe both Romney and McCain, and while most of them will presumably hold their noses and pull the GOP lever anyway, some fraction of them may just stay home.

One other observation: The old Romney line about being the only frontrunner to have had only one wife was a clever way to dispense with the whole polygamy question and call oblique attention to his rivals' checkered matrimonial records. But it's remarkable how many of the Romney boosters commenting on Martin's blog view his family life as central to his appeal:

The ONLY top-tier candidate for the Republican nomination to have ONLY ONE WIFE and stay FAITHFUL to her is MITT ROMNEY....

Mitt has taken a genuine position in his life: he is married one time and been faithful to his wife and has five children that are also faithful to their wives. That is almost unheard of in this country.

If a successful family isn't an accomplishment, then why is the divorce rate over 50%... If having a successful family isn't an accomplishment, then why is Mitt the only front-runner to accomplish such a feat?

It may just be me, but non-divorce as a presidential qualification seems to be setting the bar pretty low, even for the GOP.

--Christopher Orr