REPUBLICANS SNUBBING MCCAIN…. John McCain was in Minnesota yesterday, home to a very competitive U.S. Senate race. Given the attention that comes with a visit from a presidential candidate, one might assume that Sen. Norm Coleman (R) would want to travel alongside his Republican colleague.

But Coleman apparently concluded he was better off without McCain.

Coleman told reporters that he would not be appearing at a planned rally with McCain this afternoon. Could it be McCain’s sliding polling numbers in Minnesota? His attacks on Obama? Coleman said he needs the time to work on suspending his own negative ads.

“Today,” he said, “people need hope and a more positive campaign is a start.”

What an interesting response. If Coleman wanted to quietly snub McCain, he could have told reporters he had a scheduling conflict and just couldn’t make it to McCain’s event. Instead, Coleman made it clear he was deliberately snubbing McCain, siding with “hope” and “a more positive campaign.”

Nate Silver raised the point that Coleman isn’t necessarily the only Republican reluctant to be seen with the Republican presidential nominee.

There are at least three groups of Republicans that might have an interest in distancing themselves from John McCain. Firstly, purple-state moderates like Coleman and Gordon Smith who don’t like the campaign’s tone. Secondly, the anti-bailout economic populists in the House who might be looking ahead to 2010 and 2012. And thirdly, true conservatives who never trusted McCain that much to begin with.

Far more so than Obama, McCain is dependent on the goodwill of fellow Republicans. With McCain having opted for public financing, RNC funds are an important part of his advertising budget. Because he’s way behind Obama on McCain-branded field offices and ground operatives, he is depending on assistance from state and local party organizations. Republican enthusiasm lags behind that of Democrats, and so volunteer resources are scarcer; conservative activists will need to decide if they’re going to make phone calls to support McCain or to help save their local Republican Congressman.

If McCain’s poll numbers continue to lag, might we see more of these slights? Something to keep an eye on.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.