This afternoon, John McCain will deliver a major speech with one purpose in mind: to convince his many conservative critics that a guy with a solid conservative voting record deserves to be viewed as sufficiently conservative.
The highlight of the conservative calendar, a magnet for 6000 activists and movement leaders, is the annual CPAC conference in Washington. McCain did not speak to the group one year ago. But now that he appears destined to be crowned as the Republican nominee, he needs these people. Or, at a bare minimum, he needs to defuse their ire.
So he'll trumpet their shared values, and urge them to join him in focusing on the common enemy, the Democrats. I also anticipate that he will hew to the conservative catechism and invoke the name of Ronald Reagan at least a dozen times.
I will write about this late today, after McCain finishes his remarks.
EARLY AFTERNOON UPDATE: And now McCain's remarks seem more crucial than ever, given Mitt Romney's late-breaking announcement that McCain won't have him to kick around anymore.
For the moment, I'll just leave you with these statistics, teasing out the aggregate popular vote in all the Democratic primaries and caucuses that were staged on Tuesday...
For Clinton: 7,347,971
For Obama: 7,294,851
She got 50.2 percent, he got 49.8 percent. Out of 14.6 million votes, the national margin was a mere 53,000, roughly the size of a capacity crowd at one ballgame. We've never had a primary season like this one. I plan to double-check my hotel reservation for the Democratic convention in Denver.