Ishould have known. Should have understood. Should have trusted the old adage that "Democrats fall in love while Republican fall into line."

But I'm a hopeless romantic. I thought Republicans just might learn to fall in love with a Big Personality - someone from a big city who acted boldly and sometimes brashly, whose life unfolded like grand opera, who'd take big chances and scoop up all the chips in the end.

And Rudy Giuliani did take big chances. As it turns out, they were also stupid chances, and he never even made it to the finals.

So, I was wrong. I should have realized that Republicans aren't known for taking big chances. They like to play it safe. Stretching back six decades, more often than not, the GOP has turned to a presidential candidate who's already been tested or whose name was already so well-known that the candidate needed little introduction to the public.

Again and again, Republicans go back to the same formula: a war hero or someone who has sought the office before or a well-known name.

War heroes: Ike, Dole, George H.W. Bush, McCain. Ran before: Dewey, Nixon, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Dole, McCain. Well-known names: Gerald Ford, George W. Bush and nearly every other GOP candidate since 1948 except Barry Goldwater.

Yes, Goldwater broke the pattern in 1964. He was a true outsider who blew the Republican Party wide open. He ushered in the modern conservative movement and opened the door to Reaganism. But he also handed the GOP one of the biggest defeats in its history.

So, Republicans are content with what's familiar. They like habit, pattern, structure. It helps to have run for president or vice president at least once before.

Then Republicans may reward you with the actual nomination. You have to be a good sport about it, too. Have to have good manners and suffer rejection politely. Republicans don't so much nominate as coronate. And coronations have served them well.

Of the last 10 presidential elections, the GOP has won seven.

Which is why this summer (now that Mitt Romney has suspended his campaign), the GOP will coronate John McCain, a war hero with a well-known name who has sought the office before and who has been a fairly good sport about losing.

It's true that many GOPers are never going to fall in love with McCain. But they will fall in line.

Yes, I know about all the conservative radio talkers and columnists who are carping that McCain isn't conservative enough. But these windy pundits are not part of the GOP rank and file. They're not party officials. And in the end, Limbaugh & Co. will have to face the same cold, hard decision as everybody else: Republican or Democrat, center/left or center/right.

That's the American two-party system. That's the way it works. That's why they call politics the art of the possible.

Now, it's true that there still is a Democrat in the race who people are capable of falling in love with. He's young, charismatic and downright seductive.

MANY are riveted by Barack Obama's words and manner even if they don't know much about his positions on the issues. He's new. He's a dreamer of Big Dreams. And his call for "change" is very enticing - so much so that the Clintons have adopted it.

Republicans know that change is inevitable. And they know how to dream as well. But like crafty chess players, they're unlikely to be distracted by the passions of the moment. That's because they understand that in the end this election will be more about the choices we make than about the changes we dream. *

Daniel A. Cirucci is a lecturer in corporate communications at Penn State Abington. He blogs at dancirucci.blogspot.com.