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The GOP brand "is hurting"

January 31, 2008 |  2:14 am

As John McCain officially claimed victory Tuesday night in Florida, he expressed particular pride in having won "an all-Republican primary” (i.e., one where only registered party members can vote).

But as he and his entourage flew cross-country Wednesday to California, one of his staunchest allies stressed that, in his view, one of McCain's main political assets ultimately will stem from his willingness to sometimes buck the GOP.

“How could we possibly win by throwing into the November election someone so tied to the [Republican] label?" asked Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). "Our brand name is hurting.”

McCain's reputation as a maverick from the party line is "a godsend for us," Graham told The Times' Maeve Reston and other reporters.

Graham noted that in poll after poll, the GOP keeps coming up far short of the Democrats when voters are asked which party they would like to see win the White House later this year. With those results in mind, Graham said, "Republicans are not stupid -– for us to think that we didn’t have to have some adjustment with the general public would be stupid.”

Of course, it is precisely the doubts that some rank-and-file Republicans have about McCain's party credentials that Mitt Romney is banking on to still give him a legitimate shot at the nomination. And lest there be any doubt that the chances are slim that at least one leading conservative commentator will reconcile himself to McCain, check out these remarks from Rush Limbaugh, who finds McCain unacceptable.

-- Don Frederick