I keep taking flak for saying that I’m willing to hold my nose and vote for McCain, even though that’s hardly an endorsement of the man. I admit, I like his position on Iraq, and national defense.
As to McCain-Feingold, I don’t think I could count the number of angry, even rabid posts I wrote on the subject.
This one’s typical:

I get really discouraged sometimes, and it’s almost always over intractable human stupidity.
McCain Feingold is the worst disaster that ever befell the First Amendment, and yet the damned fools who passed it illegally sit idly by while the mischief grows.
The idea of assigning a monetary value to speech so that it can be regulated as a “contribution” is so utterly repugnant to our tradition that it’s just mind boggling.

Boy that stopped ’em cold, didn’t it?
And if that one didn’t, then surely my writing to the FEC must have brought the McCain regime to its knees.
Or my angry pledge that I’d go to prison rather than comply:

While I can’t speak for others, I’d go to prison before I’d comply with such nonsense.
This is the biggest threat to free speech I have seen in my 50 years living in the United States. It’s one of those “we must hang together or we’ll all hang separately” things that everyone — old media, new media, bloggers, MSM journalists, Republicans, Democrats, Neocons, religious conservatives, socialists, gun nuts, Marxists, Homocons, you name it — should resolutely oppose.

The point is that I resolutely, in the strongest possible language, opposed McCain-Feingold in post after post, going all the way back to my first analysis of the law in 2003.
I don’t mean to beat this issue to death (or bore anyone with a long litany), but I can’t assume that everyone who reads a post like this has read this blog for years and knows how strongly I feel about free speech, or how deeply distrustful this makes me of McCain. The only reason I’m not still gnashing my teeth over it as much as I was is not only because the FEC temporarily seemed to back down, but because Bush had signed it, the Supreme Court upheld it, and even my favorite candidate Fred Thompson supported it (as a pesky commenter just had to gloatingly point out). So how much could my teeth-gnashing possibly accomplish?
Yes, I realize that politics is a dirty, even filthy, business.
But the fact remains that assaulting the First Amendment is McCain’s Sin Number One. I have not forgiven him for it, and I will not, unless he admits it was a mistake.
That does not mean I would prefer Hillary Clinton, who has advocated Internet gateways and government control of talk radio.
The second big problem with McCain is over immigration. There’s no question that he is, from a conservative standpoint, weak on that issue. But is he weaker than Bush? I’m at a loss to understand how his position is all that different, and many of the people slamming McCain on immigration voted for Bush, so I’m not quite sure what’s going on. In a comment earlier, I asked whether immigration is the new defining issue of the conservative base.
And I do mean new.
Via The Anchoress, here’s are words uttered in 1988 from the man McCain likes to claim as his mentor:

Our goal must be a day when the free flow of trade — from the tip of Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic Circle — unites the people of the Western Hemisphere in a bond of mutually beneficial exchange; when all borders become what the U.S.-Canadian border so long has been — a meeting place, rather than a dividing line.

It gets worse. Here’s the same guy:

The idea of a North American accord has been mine for many, many years. I have seen presidents, both Democrat and Republican, approach our neighbors with pre-concocted plans in which their only input is to vote “yes.”
Some months before I declared, I asked for a meeting and crossed the border to meet with the president of Mexico. … I went, as I said in my announcement address, to ask him his ideas — how we could make the border something other than a locale for a nine-foot fence.

OK that was Ronald Reagan. Don’t expect McCain to quote him, though. If the anti-immigration “base” had their way, the above words would be erased from human memory, and stricken from the record.
The way people talk, you’d think McCain started this sinister conspiracy to erase the border.
FWIW, I think the border is out of control, and I have written post after post about that too. Long and thoughtful posts, as if anyone cared. I even worried that this might lead to another Civil War, as if I could prevent such a thing.
And of course, I couldn’t help wondering how the issue appeared virtually out of nowhere to suddenly emerge as an impeachment issue on the right:

What’s especially remarkable is that even though immigration has been out of control for many years, it wasn’t even a blip on the political horizon during the 2004 election. CNN’s voter exit polls didn’t even list it as a concern.
And now it’s an impeachment issue?
Who’da thunk it?
As for me, I still want to get rid of big government statism, preserve the Constitution, reverse the course towards socialism, legalize drugs, and end bureaucratic tyranny.
The president is not doing any of these things, either. And often I forget to complain. I’m probably too old.

If conservatism means not changing things too fast, what accounts for such a sudden emergence of immigration as a third rail issue? I don’t trust McCain on immigration any more than I trust him on First Amendment issues, but what explains the highly emotional way he is being painted as someone who is trying to destroy United States sovereignty?
It’s like, I held my nose and voted for Bush, and for years I got it from the left. My friends on the left castigated me regularly as a Bush supporter, and over and over I had to correct them and say that I was really voting against Al Gore and John Kerry. Naturally, no one believed me.
And so now I’m poised to hold my nose and vote against Hillary, and I’m getting it again, only it’s not from the left.
Irony provides small comfort.
UPDATE: Rick Moran takes a long look at McCain’s popularity, and wonders whether conservatives are redefining themselves:

A breakdown of the conservative vote shows that McCain bested Romney by 35%-32% among those who identify themselves as “somewhat conservative” while dominating among “moderates” by a 2-1 margin over Romney. The significance is that while Romney creamed McCain among those who identified themselves as “very conservative,” there were much fewer of those voters than moderates and lesser conservatives. Those two groups made up a majority (55%) of the GOP vote and McCain won both groups with ease.
It could very well be that what we are seeing in the Republican party is a redefining – or perhaps more accurately, a “readjustment” – in how people identify themselves as conservatives.

Read it all.
Taking the long view of all this, I think the immigration argument may go to the heart of the redefinition of conservatism. If conservatism was redefined in the last few years, might there be an ongoing (still-unresolved) redefinition of the redefinition?