For McCain, California is his ticket to Munich

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As they gather at Rockefeller Center Plaza this morning for a final New York rally, before they fly to San Diego and end up in Phoenix, the McCain people have some worries about today. They’re confident they’ll win New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware and Arizona. They’re sure they’ll end the evening with at least a 200-delegate lead over Mitt Romney. And they know that with that kind of lead going forward, with some proportional contests and key open primaries to look forward to, it will be all but a statistical-logical-political impossibility for Mitt Romney to somehow end up with the nomination. And yet McCain’s people fear he may lose the popular vote in California to Romney — even if they haul in the same number of CA delegates — and that the Super Tuesday story will therefore NOT be the crowning of McCain but rather his failure to put away the game, a failure born of his fractious and sometimes unloving relationship with conservatives, especially those millions of conservatives who listen to and abide by Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, not to mention Limbaugh and Hannity themselves, and a failure that in turn will be viewed as both a symptom and a cause of the historic crack-up of the conservative coalition that has sustained and nourished the Republican Party for a couple generations.

Unless McCain wins in California. In which case, Romney’s efforts to build an anti-McCain movement will likely run out of gas and Romney will have to consider how much longer to stay in the race. And John McCain will be able to fly to Munich at the end of the week, as planned, to the Werkunde conference on security, a multi-national wonk-fest that the Arizona senator considers a kind of annual vacation. Only this time he would be attending as the Republican nominee for President. If he doesn’t beat Romney in California, McCain will have to cancel his Werkunde trip in order to campaign in what would be the next big test — the Virginia primary on Feb. 12. “And no one wants to tell him he can’t go to Werkunde,” says an aide.