Newsflash for Matthews: GOP Doesn't Like McCain

It's not exactly news to the GOP base that John McCain is not one of them. But it was perhaps noteworthy to hear Chris Matthews, ostensibly a McCain man [at least when it comes to his preference among Republican presidential hopefuls], acknowledge that fact on this evening's Hardball. He might also have raised eyebrows on the other side of the aisle by ripping Democrats for their weakness on illegal immigration.

Speaking of the issues that were stressed at this past weekend's Republican coffee klatsch in Memphis, Matthews stated "all I heard was . . . no gay marriage, immigration - lock it up, stop illegals - keep cutting taxes and keep appointing conservative justices."

That's when Matthews conceded: "I'm not sure John McCain meets that bill in terms of passion."

Chuck Todd of The Hotline reasoned that a bad night for the GOP in the 2006 mid-term elections would be a good night for John McCain, since at that point, Republicans' focus in choosing a candidate would switch from ideological purity to "electability."

When Matthews asked why the GOP base and McCain don't seem comfortable with each other, Tony Blankley of the Washington Times observed: "he's not a regular - he's a gadfly. He has undercut the party on a number of key issues."

Blankley also opined, astutely IMHO, that McCain hurt himself with his ploy of asking straw poll participants to vote for President Bush rather than for himself. "His strength is straight talk. I think he dinged a little his image of being a straight shooter by taking that ploy."

Matthews later brought in Al Sharpton and Terry McAuliffe to kibitz on the GOP's Memphis meeting. When Matthews suggested to Sharpton that strong Republican opposition to illegal immigration was an issue the GOP could win on, Sharpton temporized. Matthews shot back: "So you Rev. Sharpton have no problem with illegal immigration?"

When Sharpton again tried to change the subject, Matthews yanked him back: "Just answer the question. You have no problem with illegal immigration?"

When Matthews brought McAuliffe into the conversation, he too dodged an unequivocal condemnation of illegal immigration.

Matthews offered this stinging summation: "This is the Democratic party's problem right here. You don't want to talk about immigration, do you?"

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.