McCAIN vs. THE BASE….The conservosphere is up in arms over John Fund’s report in the Wall Street Journal that John McCain would be squishy on conservative appointments to the Supreme Court:

More recently, Mr. McCain has told conservatives he would be happy to appoint the likes of Chief Justice John Roberts to the Supreme Court. But he indicated he might draw the line on a Samuel Alito, because “he wore his conservatism on his sleeve.”

Over at The Corner, Kathryn Jean Lopez has Fund’s back:

For what it’s worth, I’ve been told the same thing John F. reported — that at a private meeting McCain said he would appoint justices like Roberts, but not like Alito — who wears his conservatism on his sleeve. The report of the comment — first in D.C. conservative circles and now in the WSJ — has set off alarm bells with conservatives who’ve worked on the judicial issues, for obvious reasons. We already got Alito despite a president who wanted to go in another direction. This time, folks feel like they’re being warned beforehand.

McCain’s team, so far, seems to have issued only a nondenial denial. But it doesn’t really answer the question. Sure, McCain supported Alito’s nomination once Bush sent it to the Senate, but has he privately told conservative audiences that he wouldn’t have nominated a guy like Alito in the first place? Inquiring right-wing minds want to know.

POSTSCRIPT: This, by the way, is one of the reasons I’m not nearly as nervous about a Hillary-McCain contest as some people. Sure, McCain might be able to peel off some independents. But more than any of the other Republican candidates, he’s also going to have to reassure the conservative base. This is obviously a balancing act that every presidential candidate has to go through, but McCain has it much worse than most. Once the right-wing pandering gets into full swing — and it will — is he really going to be able to hang on to independents too?