John McCain campaign is faltering for one simple reason: Iraq.
More specifically, McCain has been mistrusted by the conservative base of the GOP ever since he picked fights with them in 2000, despite his long-standing neoconservative foreign policy views.
In turn, his implicit argument to win their support this time around, in addition to his explicit pandering, was: I'm your best shot at winning independent voters.
His high-profile support of Bush's surge, complete with decidedly not-straight talk, turned independents against him. No longer could he argue to Republican voters that he's the most electable candidate.
That should give the other Republican candidates no solace.
All the leading candidates back the surge and and oppose a timeline for redeployment. All the leading candidates push the neocon worldview and are actively saber-rattling with Iran.
All of that will get them in trouble with the broad majority of the country that wants an end to the occupation.
In my recent bloggingheads.tv segment with Eric Alterman, he argued that the eventual Republican could pivot away from their neocon rantings after the primary is over. I don't think it'll be that easy, especially if there's a coordinated effort to remind voters what they were repeatedly saying.
But that may will be be their only hope, pretending they will actually scrap the current neocon foreign policy.
McCain operated under the delusion that Joe Lieberman's 2006 victory proved that a fervent backer of occupation could win indepedent voters, ignoring how Lieberman fudged and blurred his position.
And he's suffering the consequences.