While Republicans may have consolidated their base and staunched the bleeding over Sarah Palin's pick, their most important task still remains: John McCain needs to go into a room of ten thousand screaming Republicans and distance himself from George W. Bush.
The Obama campaign has honed its line of attack against John McCain--he has voted with George Bush 90% of the time and his election would represent a third Bush term. To its credit Team Obama repeats this like a mantra.
If this criticism sticks it will be devastating to McCain. Voters have had it with George Bush and will reject McCain if they believe that he will continue the failed policies of the last eight years.
McCain needs to refute this charge tonight by making his differences with GOP orthodoxy clear to the American people. This will not be easy. First, the crowd of GOP loyalists doesn't want to hear it. These are Bush partisans who believe that their man has been a good president, and many remain deeply suspicious of McCain. Will McCain challenge his base?
Secondly, McCain's case on the merits is weak. During the Bush Presidency, McCain has moved steadily rightward, repudiating his own positions on issues like taxes and abortion. And he wears his support for the war in Iraq--a war the public associates with Bush--like an albatross around his neck.
McCain has other tasks as well--he will want to tell his own life story and detail what he would do programmatically in the White House--but his most important task will be the hardest.