In response to my skepticism about Romney's chances of winning the GOP primary, Matt Yglesias tweets: "Folks who think Romney can't win a GOP primary need to explain how the heretical McCain won."
First, the extreme wing of the GOP wasn't as energized during the 2008 primary as it is now. 2008 sees GOP moderate Susan Collins running unopposed in the Maine GOP primary. I don't think that would happen now. Something happened between then and now to turn the GOP base into a much stronger political force. I think it's paranoia based on bizarre ideas about what President Obama is up to, fed by right-wing entertainers like Limbaugh and Beck. In any event, the 2010 Senate primaries lead me to think that the GOP base will be a much bigger force in the 2012 primary than it was in 2008.
Second, while McCain wasn't trusted by the GOP base, he had a better record on their issues than most alternatives, making him an acceptable option. He supported invading everything and had a zero rating from both NARAL and Planned Parenthood. Obviously, I'm not the person who movement conservatives should be turning to for strategic advice, but Ramesh Ponnuru is, and he was telling people that McCain was a good choice. Who else were you going to vote for? Pro-choice Rudy Giuliani? Antiwar Ron Paul? Tax-raising Mike Huckabee? Flip-flopping Mitt Romney?