Over the last week, I've started to think McCain will be a pretty weak general-election candidate, contra the CW on this. While he's obviously a charming and magnetic guy, he's a dreadful public speaker, as anyone who saw his New Hampshire victory speech can tell you; he's a lousy debater, as anyone who saw last week's Reagan Library debate will recall; and he just feels a bit like yesterday's news, something that will become more and more pronounced as the campaign wears on. (Hillary may also have that problem if she's the nominee, but it'll be offset by the possibility of electing the first female president.) I can't imagine the media love affair with McCain in a general election will be anything like it was during the 2000 primaries, or even like it was last fall. McCain is most appealing when he can be subversive, and it's hard to be subversive when you're the GOP's standard-bearer.

Anyway, that's how I felt before I opened up today's New York Times and saw this McCain piece. Now I'm even more down on his chances.

See this passage in particular:

But the more substantive challenge for Mr. McCain is how to retain independents and moderate Democrats as he increasingly woos the right to try to rally the party around his candidacy. Last week, he released his first national television commercial, “True Conservative,” which showed him in a meeting with Ronald Reagan and declared that he was “a proud social conservative who will never waver.”

Mr. McCain, who has long opposed abortion rights, has been announcing endorsements from leading conservatives almost hourly — the former presidential candidate Steve Forbes and Theodore B. Olson, a former solicitor general, came on board Friday — although he still faces intense opposition from many conservatives, including Mr. Limbaugh, the talk radio host, who is one of his most vocal critics. Still, Mr. McCain’s aides say they believe voters know who he is and insist he will not cater to the right as he tries to secure the nomination.

In the natural order of a presidential campaign, a candidate will effectively wrap up his party's nomination, then immediately tack to the center to position himself for the general. (Alas, it's been all men to this point.) McCain, on the other hand, will have to spend several months courting his party's base once he effectively wraps up the nomination. This does not strike me as an auspicious development for him, to say the least. If you thought he already sounded like a phony thanks to his recent conversion on tax cuts, just wait and see what the next few months bring...

--Noam Scheiber