Tonight's acceptance speech will be McCain's best chance to make his case for the presidency - and, in the process, to start rebranding his party for the post-Bush years.
It'll be an uphill effort. Many conservative activists still can't believe that their interparty nemesis, McCain the Maverick, is the nominee.
Republican delegates (like Democratic ones) tend to be more ideological than average voters. But they need to understand just how McCain's independence has him running ahead of the Republican brand.
At work beneath the convention's surface is a struggle for the soul of the Republican Party - between the "51 percenters," who think Karl Rove's divisive play-to-the-base strategy of past elections is sufficient, and the "50 staters," who believe that reaching out and trying to build a broader party is the key to future victory.
The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. Exit polls from the 2006 elections show that it wasn't just Iraq that led voters to kick Republicans out of power: It was corruption, ideological excess and overspending in Tom DeLay's Congress.
Being in opposition is the best time for political parties to revive themselves. Luckily for Republicans, McCain's lead can help them best rebrand.
After all, their nominee always denounced the unprecedented pork-barrel spending from the GOP Congress. When the Jack Abramoff scandal began to break, McCain held hearings that led to DeLay's resignation as House majority leader. And when ideological gridlock loomed, it was McCain who helped form bipartisan coalitions.
These stands didn't always make him popular with GOP colleagues - but they did make him right.
Read it all here.
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