The Note: At the Ridge

Now that Paris and Britney have been replaced by Vladimir and Dmitry, things look very serious for Sen. Barack Obama in a race that's seen its landscape shift faster than shaved ice melts in the Kailua sun.

(If he could only figure out that Hillary thing before we get to Denver . . . )

(And the poll we've all been waiting for has arrived -- the one that declares the race just about even.)

Yet on the home front, it's Sen. John McCain who's playing a dangerous game, even while he has the field all to himself.

While he's busy trying not to reignite the Cold War, is he restarting a GOP civil war? (And might a war hero be ready to enter Obamaland -- though not, he says at the convention.)

It's easy to forget, amid the Democratic discord, the difficulty with which so many key Republican players swallowed the notion of a McCain nomination.

And they have this to chew on now: "I think that the pro-life position is one of the important aspects or fundamentals of the Republican Party," McCain tells The Weekly Standard's Stephen F. Hayes. "And I also feel that -- and I'm not trying to equivocate here -- that Americans want us to work together. You know, Tom Ridge is one of the great leaders and he happens to be pro-choice. And I don't think that that would necessarily rule Tom Ridge out."

Actually, he is trying to equivocate -- and just maybe lay the groundwork for the pick he really wants to make. He'd love to capture some of those disaffected Clinton supporters, sure -- but does he want to enrage the party base at the very moment that GOPers are starting to believe he may have a chance?

"Either Ridge or [Sen. Joe] Lieberman would be a 'transformative' VP pick who could help open up the Republican Party and deliver moderate voters and Independents, some McCain advisers believe. McCain is seriously weighing that option, sources say," ABC's Jan Crawford Greenburg reports. "But it's a tough calculus: A pro-choice nominee would infuriate the anti-abortion element of the conservative base and potentially be a bitter divorce from the Religious Right."

The party has rallied behind McCain -- but there's work that's never really done. The reaction is key -- and McCain, while always liable to go his own way, will be listening.

"In opening up the possibility of choosing a pro-choice nominee just a few weeks (or even days) before he is expected to make his vice presidential pick public, McCain is likely testing the waters to see how such a move would be received by the base voters who have long been skeptical about his conservative bona fides," Washingtonpost.com's Chris Cillizza writes.

Some early words: "If he picks a pro-choice running mate, I don't see how he can win this race," Family Research Council President Tony Perkinstells the Washington Times' Stephen Dinan and Ralph Z. Hallow.

Add Dinan and Hallow: "Naming Mr. Ridge also could raise the thorny issue of immigration, because by some measures, immigration enforcement dropped under Mr. Ridge's tenure, only to pick up when his successor, Michael Chertoff, took office."

Contrast McCain's moves with the nuanced way the Democrats are handling their party disagreements over abortion: Some new platform language, and a symbolically significant speaker in Sen. Bobby Casey Jr., D-Pa. -- but it's all being done with the cooperation (or, at least, without the vocal objections) of the major interest groups.

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