A shrewd take (for subscribers only):
What Mr McCain's trip to Liberty University is really about is a subtle but substantial change in the balance of power and ideology in the Republican Party. Mr McCain is neither a wilful maverick nor a liberal who somehow found himself in the wrong place. He is a different kind of Republican—part sunbelt conservative (who believes in limited government), and part Teddy Roosevelt Republican (who believes in using the power of the state to solve pressing problems such as growing inequality and global warming). This ideology represents a challenge to many Republican power-brokers, particularly tax-cutters and lobbyists. That is why Mr McCain provokes such a furious debate within the party. But his particular range of ideas probably presents the Republicans' best chance of winning a third presidential election in a row.
I dislike some of McCain's big government impulses; but he cannot conceivably be worse than Bush on that score. His impulse to meedle, and even to bully, his opponents is not pretty either. But if the GOP passes him by, they will, I think, come to regret it. And so will America.