Back in March of 2006, I began my first month of blogging by asking myself:

why was I so dead-set against McCain six years ago?

My answer was uncertain:

Frankly, it is hard to remember exactly, but I came to genuinely dislike him for a time.

January 2008: I am starting to remember.

McCain is a decent fellow, I continue to believe. While his opponents ruthlessly distort his political record, he is, in truth, a center-right politician, who would make a good president, especially on issues of national security.

Having said that, he does have several personality traits that I find hard to abide. I have, once again, come to see his "straight-talk express" as a gimmick. He bellows about integrity and truth telling. He inveighs against his main opponent for distorting his record on immigration to shamelessly cover the truth that he continually revises, extends, and attempts to tamp down his unpopular statements on amnesty. Then McCain turns around and despicably invents a completely erroneous attack on Mitt Romney concerning his stance on the Iraq War. When confronted, McCain raises his voice and doubles his bet. Shameless. Moreover, McCain is also thin-skinned and petulant, and he is too quick to assume the victim pose. Everybody is always out to get him. Toughen up, John. Politics is a tough business.

Having said that, from the very beginning, I have believed that the best one-on-one match-up for the GOP is Hillary Clinton vs. McCain. He will run a very competitive campaign, which he might win. Even if he does not, he is a moderate Republican, and Hillary will need to run as a moderate Democrat to win. She will run to the center, and she cannot beat McCain and win election as president without committing to finish the war in Iraq. This is the most important issue of our time.

On the other hand, McCain most likely loses big to Obama. I am convinced he cannot get past the visuals. Obama is tall, handsome, vigorous, and youthful; while McCain is short, ugly, tired, and old. McCain is unable to stand on the same stage as Barack Obama and have a prayer of winning.

On the other hand, while I think Mitt Romney has the potential of losing to Hillary in an absolutely historic fashion, I think he matches up much better against Obama. And who knows, really, Romney might continue to improve as a candidate as the year drones on; he might very well grow into a race against Hillary.

My initial reaction to Romney was lukewarm--but, as circumstances have played out, I have come to appreciate him. Perhaps that is faint praise--but we are down to some imperfect choices.

On the other hand, the biggest problem with McCain is that he is a non-starter (make that deal-breaker) for too many important components of our party.

One more positive for Romney: the new most important issue in this election is the economy. Mitt Romney exudes confidence and competence in this area.

Bottom Line: as so many thoughtful people have written this week, things are still in a pretty big mess for the GOP.