Editor’s note: We’re excited to welcome Cliff Schecter this week as a permanent addition to the Firedoglake tribe, with the debut of his new blog, Cliff Schecter’s Campaign Silo. We’ll frequently feature Cliff’s posts on the FDL front page. Here’s his debut post. — DN

Lost in the battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton last night were some more jaw-dropping numbers on the Republican side of the ledger. During the last three primaries–Pennsylvania, Indiana and North Carolina–McCain has failed to break 80% when running against nobody. In other words, John McCain has been losing between a fifth and a quarter of Republicans to protest votes for Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul and "none of the above" just because many GOP voters are disenchanted with their nominee.

This is startling, and should be leading to the Republican National Committee to buy Milk Of Magnesia in bulk about now. In fact, as I chronicle in The Real McCain, the Arizona senator has long suffered from this problem, which could come back to haunt him in the general election. From the book:

Some high-ranking Republicans believe that McCain was motivated simply and purely by revenge on the Bush machine and allied conservatives, which had so mercilessly attacked him in South Carolina. In fact, one longtime conservative activist, Richard Viguerie, started a website in February of 2008 called conservativeHQ.com, to "relaunch the conservative movement." In his debut email promoting the site, he attacked McCain, "who seems to have disdain for conservatives and conservative ideas." This sentiment could often be heard in a growing chorus from the Right starting all the way back in 2001 (p.15).

I have already spoken to two sources, one a Republican operative and another located at a Republican think tank in Washington, who both confirmed to me that McCain’s foray into extolling Alito and Roberts this past week was only the beginning. He needs to win conservatives. And the McCain campaign is beginning to fear that that a sizeable percentage may stay home or bolt to Barack Obama (or perhaps former Congressman Bob Barr, if he does indeed run for president on the Libertarian line, giving those Ron Paul voters a place to go).

[Cross-posted at Cliff Schecter's Campaign Silo.