One of the underlying arguments in favor of Hillary Clinton is that she will be harder for the so-called “right-wing attack machine” to steamroll. But what if they threw an election and the attack machine stayed home?

John McCain is unlikely to repeat or tolerate the tactics of Bush/Rove. First, he was a victim in 2000. Second, he seems genuinely not to care for that kind of politics. It might be a personal predilection, but it also might be the result of his Senate service. The US Senate is a clubby kind of place and I don’t see McCain relishing attacks against a fellow senator, be it Clinton or Barack Obama.

Third, angry attacks risk having him look like a grumpy old man rather than a doting grandpa (putting the Wilford Brimley endorsement into context). Only the latter can peel away some of the youth vote. (Note also how the front-page story in yesterday’s New York TImes serves two purposes: McCain looks more sympathetic on the war, but he also looks younger — young enough to have a son in his early 20s).

Of course, some on the right will be trying to tear down either Democratic candidate however they can. No one seems able to muzzle Ann Coulter. I just believe (or want to believe – perhaps it’s a utopian fantasy) that McCain will make stronger stands against that sort of thing than George W. Bush ever did. That might be one reason Rush Limbaugh is still queasy.

Democrats shouldn’t try to fight the last war, especially since they lost. McCain just may kill them with kindness.

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