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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.

I’ve been seeing a ton of Ron Paul signs in central Pennsylvania over the last few days — and only one McCain sign. It makes me wonder whether Rush Limbaugh’s “Operation Chaos” could generate some fantastic blowback. And the beneficiary could be Ron Paul. Let’s imagine how this absurd scenario plays out:

As I understand it, PA Republicans are crossing over to vote in the April 22 primary for the Democrat they believe would be less of a threat to McCain. Limbaugh appears to think that’s Hillary (at least he did the last time I checked).

But I’ve seen news articles and letters to the editor suggesting some of the ground forces engaged in Operation Chaos have been venturing their own independent analysis. They’ve pegged Obama as the weaker foe in a general election. Or, they’re so consumed with Hillary-phobia that they’re voting against her in the primary.

So, Operation Chaos might cancel itself out on the Democratic side (any Dems whining about dirty tricks and the unfairness of it all should just relax). On the GOP side, however, Ron Paul could do pretty well if all the McCain supporters vote in the Dem primary instead.

I’m not saying Paul will definitely carry the Keystone State. But if he does, you can say you read it here first.

In the end, what Rush’s Operation Chaos neglects is the fact that Republican voters might have local races that demand their attention and their vote. Indeed, a crowd of Republicans are running against each other in PA legislative races in Adams and York counties. Two long-time state legislators are retiring, creating a rare opening for someone else to move in. It’s too bad Rush doesn’t feel these races are very important.

It’s nice to see Rush Limbaugh urging PA Republicans to switch parties and vote in the April 22 primary. I guess he wants them to vote for Hillary Clinton. But I wonder, though, if this isn’t case of being careful what you wish for. She’s probably going to be tougher in a general election than people give her credit for.

At any rate, I hope all those newfound Dems in PA enjoy their near-daily robocalls from Gov. Ed Rendell, former Pres. Bill Clinton and a host of other prominent people, not to mention the weekly calls from campaign volunteers urging us to make up our minds already. We’ve gotten two so far, one from each camp, and the election is still more than four weeks away.

I wonder how many Republicans will switch back, unable to take the incoming barrage.