Mark’s observation about McCain’s sudden non-appearance for Tom Reynolds shows Arizona’s senior senator at his most canny. The question is at what point he becomes too clever-by-half.
Remember that the only thing that McCain cares about is winning the Republican nomination. Under normal circumstances, that would mean pulling out all the stops. But two things counsel against that here:
1) McCain has an interest in a GOP bloodbath in November. The Republicans are likely to turn to him if they figure he is the only thing between them and a Democratic President. He thus must do nothing to help someone over the top.
2) He in unlikely to campaign for someone who is likely to lose, because then his selling-point as party savior gets tarnished.
Thus, it is unremarkable that he would shy away from Reynolds. The only trick here is not to make it too obvious: he has to be seen as pushing hard for the ticket. His calculation must be that he will campaign for someone who is likely to win–but not so likely to win as to not give him credit for pushing the candidate over the top, and not so close to defeat that his efforts would actually salvage a candidacy. He must thus be seen to be defending his party while simultaneously subverting it.
McCain’s a pretty loathsome hypocrite, but if he can pull this one off, then you have to give him credit for exquisite craftsmanship.