Fact: Meghan McCain is the most visible political person in the country under 25 years of age right now. With appearances on Rachel Maddow, The View, and now Larry King Live, the 2008 presidential campaign (and her blogging during it) has given her a sizable podium. Some have criticized her for her centrist, socially liberal views--Laura Ingraham compared her to a plus-sized model--and earlier this month she gave a name to the brand of moderate Republicanism to which she ascribes: "progressive Republican."

Last night, on Larry King Live, she talked more about what that means: "I consider myself a progressive Republican. I am liberal on social issues, and I think that the party is at a place where social issues shouldn't define the party...in fairness to me, I am a different generation than the people that are giving me heat...I think there's such a generation gap that the people that don't undertand me, I actually take it as compliment, that sort of this new young Republican can come forward and make progress and be successful in the ways that this party has curently failed."

For some, the words "young Republican" conjure images of conservative college students passionate about their right-of-center ideals. But if McCain is the most visible young Republican in the nation, is that where the party's youth are headed--to a deconstructed, moderate attitude in which social issues take a backseat? McCain is outspoken about the party's current failures, and she says the GOP doesn't have a leader. There is no question that it's currently trying to find itself.

Social conservatism and ties to the evangelical community defined a significant part of President Bush's power base; now, President Obama has sought to take back some of that ground by cultivating a relationship with Rev. Rick Warren--though his stem cell order may have given it back to the GOP. Within the political elite, there's an opinion that one of John McCain's major failures was capitulating to the social conservatism he rejected in 2000. Insofar as Republicans share that opinion, there could be room for movement on the social front for the GOP by 2012 or 2016.

With a few more appearances on widely viewed national TV programs, McCain could foster a social liberalism among young conservatives--or a conservatism among young social liberals--and become that model "new young Republican." Then again, that could be a tall order: Obama is pretty popular among the young people, too.

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