I voted about 10 minutes ago. For Fred Thompson, as I had said I would. But John McCain is having a great day, at least among the folks I have talked to. I even wrestled with the idea of a vote for McCain myself, but decided against it. If Fred's campaign ends here in SC, OK. And then I reserve the right to jump ship to one of the more legit contenders, one of whom may very well be McCain. but if I don't vote for who I perceive to be the best guy, I'm not helping.
The folks I have talked to who are voting for McCain are a mixed bunch, and they all have something in common--they are not "political people." They don't care that McCain is an apostate on a whole host of Republican issues, or have any inkling what a vote for him does in the overall game theory of the nomination and general election. They just see him as the fundamentally most serious candidate in a very serious time, particularly on the issue of the war. As I have written before, I don't personally attach much weight to GOP orthodoxy, either, so the apostasy in general doesn't bother me. Specific issues do (like the fact that he has been vocally pro-amnesty for illegal aliens in the past, or that he opposed the Bush tax cuts), but I will give McCain credit for one major thing--"straight talk." He calls it like he sees it. He may "see it" all wrong, in my opinion, but I've never felt like I was being pandered to by John McCain.
I think that's a key point in his favor. I still foresee Mitt Romney as the likeliest eventual nominee for the GOP. But Romney has a "slick" feeling about him. (Maybe it's the hair.) Maybe it's entirely beyond his control. But he comes across as less of a straight shooter than McCain (or Thompson, for that matter). Huckabee projects a similar (but folksier) sort of slickness. In the end, if the eventual Republican nominee faces Hillary Clinton, I think being seen as more genuine and less programmed is an intangible advantage. Of course, if the Democrats (as I think and hope they will) nominate Obama, that advantage is nullified. But then "gravitas," the whole feel of being mature and grown-up, will work in the Republican's favor (where being a fresh face and a voice for "change" will motivate the Obama forces).
Most polls I have seen show that in a potential November match-up, the Republican with the best chance to actually win over Hillary or Obama is McCain. I know there are those who say that he's a lousy Republican, and that his nomination would be bad for the party overall. But I don't think that in the end a President Hillary Clinton is better, no matter what the GOP loser says in his concession speech.
Anyway, I've voted my conscience, and I feel pretty confident now that the eventual nominee will be either Romney or McCain (unless I get lucky and Thompson pulls it off... I'll bet he's a contender for veep for either guy). I can live with either of those outcomes.