Robert Novak has an interesting column today about how John McCain has gone from 2000 insurgent to 2008 establishmentarian:
It is beginning to look like "McCain Inc." -- that is, party regulars, corporate officials and Washington lawyers and lobbyists moving toward John McCain, the man they feared and loathed eight years ago. The GOP, abhorring competition and detesting surprises, likes to establish its presidential nominee well in advance.
I first appreciated this in 1996, when Robert J. Dole's candidacy was dying after he barely won in Iowa and lost New Hampshire, Arizona and Delaware. He then won eight of eight primaries on a single Tuesday. When I asked a Dole adviser how this had happened, he said it was "Dole Inc." repelling outsiders seeking the nomination: Steve Forbes and Pat Buchanan.
Viewing Republican presidential campaigns through this lens shows the corporate party selecting one candidate -- and invariably nominating him. It has nothing to do with ideology. After the establishment fiercely opposed Ronald Reagan as an extremist in 1976, he became "Reagan Inc." in 1980. The most vivid instance was the coalition's early embrace for 2000 of "George W. Bush Inc.," though he had little to commend him apart from his name.
It's also beginning to look like the lesson McCain took away from his 2000 defeat was, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.