I believe that the voters in this Republican nomination contest — here in Virginia and across the country — deserve a real choice. And Gov. Huckabee is clearly the conservative alternative. He is the best choice, and he is my choice. So I am voting for him on Tuesday, here in Virginia.
I don’t buy the idea that John McCain is a true conservative. Nor do I buy the idea that Mike Huckabee should get out of this contest. The people in the Potomac area, Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia, deserve a choice.
In addition, we have many important states coming up, including my home state of Wisconsin. Folks in all those states deserve a choice — a real choice.
I had been a supporter of Mitt Romney, but now I am very glad that Gov. Huckabee has decided to stay in the race. I appreciate that he is staying in, just as I appreciate that Gov. Huckabee and Sen. McCain are not going at each other’s throats — a vigorous debate about important issues is the healthiest thing possible for the Republican Party.
Huckabee has articulated some very clear differences with McCain: on immigration, on McCain-Feingold, and also on the McCain Lieberman global warming scheme. Mike Huckabee is much more solid on the social issues, including right to life. Yes, McCain says that he has a right to life record, but he can’t be supportive of embryonic stem-cell research and have a clear right to life record, because rights-to-lifers, including me, want to protect all life, from conception to natural death.
Huckabee is also good on marriage, insisting that it be limited to one man and one woman. Unfortunately, McCain refused to vote for the marriage amendment.
These are important differences.
By voting for Huckabee, people will be telling McCain and the Republican Party establishment that they better accommodate these conservatives and their heartfelt beliefs, or else they the GOP will not be able to win the general election this November.
Like the respect I feel for Huckabee, I have great respect for McCain, but he and his Republican Party backers have to make sure that they accommodate the base of the Republican Party.
If they don’t, McCain may find that the conservative grass roots won’t turn out to vote this November. I know my fellow conservatives. I have been active in the conservative movement since 1960. I was an early supporter of Barry Goldwater, and I was a delegate for Ronald Reagan in 1976 and 1980. And so I remind all the Washington D.C.-oriented political strategists that outside-the-beltway conservatives don’t have to vote for every candidate if they don’t want to.
They can stay home, or they can skip over some candidates. That is a very real possibility this year. I have had hundreds of people that have contacted me, telling me, “I can’t vote for McCain.” I hope that McCain will accommodate those people, for the sake of the conservative movement, as well as the Republican Party. But to repeat: I am voting for Huckabee.
The Republican Party must reach out to social conservatives like me, and so Huckabee is solid. But Huckabee also appeals to working people. The Republican Party by and large ignores the concerns of these people, especially when they are hurting. He is the only candidate who has consistently reached out, during this campaign, to those who are hurting. It’s great for the GOP hierarchy to say that the fundamentals of the economy are sound. But it’s even more important to concentrate on real people, and to look for sound conservative solutions.
Mike Huckabee is one of them by his own background, and so naturally he listens to them. By voting for him, millions of ordinary Americans will make their voice heard, loud and clear.
I call upon all my fellow conservatives to get out and support him. A big vote for Huckabee is the best way to send a message to McCain and the Republican establishment that this is an election, not a coronation.
Paul Weyrich is the chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.
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