How do we know? Because of all the interesting moves he has made: making nice with the Bushies, supporting a gay marriage ban in Arizona, and as Andrew Sullivan reports he is making nice with Jerry Fawell, a man he denounced back in 2000.
One could say that he is waking up and smelling the coffee. He knows the far right hold power in the GOP and he is doing what he can to shore up the base.
But at what costs to the Independents and Democrats that tended to like him?
Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne opines that with McCain trying to make nice with the base, might threaten his chances at the presidency. He notes:
The prevailing view among McCain's lieutenants -- it's also the conventional political view -- is that since the main obstacle to his nomination in 2008 comes from the right and from Bush partisans, McCain's main task is to appease the right and make nice with Bush on issues (such as Iraq) where McCain actually agrees with the president. Liberal attacks can be ignored, since most liberals will eventually vote against McCain anyway. There will be plenty of time after he's nominated for McCain to don his maverick apparel again for the benefit of moderates and independents.
All terribly logical, but it's a more dangerous strategy than it seems. McCain's central appeal, even to people who disagree with him, has always been his willingness to do the nonpolitical thing -- for example, to defend Kerry that day in 2004 simply because he thought the attacks on Kerry were wrong.
If McCain spends the next two years obviously positioning himself to win Republican primary votes, he will start to look like just another politician. Once lost, a maverick's image is hard to earn back.
Moreover, McCain is winning a hearing from previously reluctant Republicans as the one person who might save the party if Bush's popularity continues to sink. But if McCain gets too close to Bush in the next two years, he will no longer have his independence as a selling point. And if Bush should make a comeback, a lot of Republicans flirting with McCain now out of necessity will happily abandon him for someone more to their liking.
McCain is making going down a dangerous path. Once you're in for a penny with the far right of the GOP, you are in for a dollar. He might appease the right for the primaries, but in the end he might lose people like me and countless other people. Scratch that, I think he has already lost me.
I hope McCain will pull back from the brink and be the man he was back in 2000. I doubt it, but one can hope.