The vulnerability? Here's a hint: It doesn't involve sorting out whether he wants to get US troops out of Iraq in 2013 or in 2108. It doesn't involve delving into the wonkery of privatizing social security or whether health care should be mandated. It doesn't involve parsing out his statements to determine whether he actually gives a damn about climate change. It doesn't even involve neutralizing McCain's efforts to distance himself from George Bush (if not Bush's policies and his fundraising potential).
It's actually this simple: When women actually hear his record on reproductive health, they start heading for the exits in substantial numbers.
[A]s of now, McCain’s position on abortion is not understood and remains only a ripe and vulnerable potential target for voter education efforts. Half (51%) of all women in these battleground states say they do not know enough about McCain’s views on abortion to say whether he is in step or
out of step with their own outlook. This misunderstanding is acute even among McCain’s sizable audience of pro-choice women voters. In fact, about half of these pro-choice McCain voters (50% in a match-up against Obama and 52% in a match-up against Clinton) volunteer that they do not know enough to even describe McCain’s position on abortion and roughly another one in four (23% in either contest) mistakenly presume that he is in step with their own views. Thus, more than seven in 10 pro-choice McCain supporters in either a McCain-Obama race (73%) or a McCain-Clinton race (75%) have yet to learn that McCain’s position on abortion is directly at odds with their own; this represents about 36% of all McCain women voters in battleground states (regardless of which Democratic candidate he faces).
And here's what happens when you provide the basics of his reproductive-health record to those 36% of McCain swing votes who aren't aware yet:
When pro-choice McCain voters are told of his true positions and actual voting record on key reproductive health issues, they express serious reservations about supporting him. In fact, many of these women voters say this information would cause them to desert McCain. After hearing that McCain has consistently voted against expanding access to preventive health care services that reduce pregnancy and the need for abortion, including votes against requiring health care plans to cover birth control and in favor of abstinence-only programs, about four in 10 pro-choice McCain voters say they are less likely to vote for him (38% in a match-up against Obama and 40% in a match-up against Clinton). When told that McCain opposes Roe v. Wade and favors making most abortions illegal, 36% of pro-choice McCain voters in a McCain-Obama race and 38% of pro-choice McCain voters in a McCain-Clinton race say they are less likely to vote for him. The simple arithmetic of these findings suggests that just filling in McCain’s actual voting record and his publicly stated positions on a handful of key issues has the potential to diminish his total vote share among battleground women voters by about 17 to 20 percentage points in either match-up.
(Emphasis in the original.)
Seventeen to 20 points is quite a potential bump from something as unsexy as voter education, isn't it?
More on this from FDL and Huffington.
He's not a maverick. He's not a moderate. He's one of the top conservative minds of the 1950s, and should be treated as such.