Chris, just a small piece of evidence towards your theory that conservatives might react badly to the McCain story because they think "McCain is a sanctimonious phony who's really no purer than the fellow politicians he occasionally castigates." A conservative friend writes me:
Unfortunately, of course, his moral grandstanding over the years opens him to a charge of hypocrisy that wouldn't stick as well with an acknowledged wrondgdoer. The republicans I believe will ... regret their scorning of Mitt for being "too perfect." Could use a little of his uprightness about now.
I've always thought the idea that conservatives don't like McCain simply because he's not conservative enough -- and, ergo, a hit from the NYT would pump up his right-wing credentials -- doesn't really get at it. After all, Huckabee, the "conservative alternative," really isn't any more "conservative" than McCain is! It's more McCain's attitude, a problem for him that this story only aggravates.