McCain Gaining Support of Conservatives

Wednesday, 25 Jun 2008 08:05 AM

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John McCain is making progress in wooing the center-right coalition, key conservative leaders Dave Keene and Grover Norquist tell Newsmax.

“McCain is gaining more support among conservatives,” says Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. “He is generally moving in the right direction. He came and spoke to the National Rifle Association board meeting. Interestingly, President Bush never did that in eight years. McCain came and spoke to the Conservative Political Action Committee conference this year. Bush only did that in his final year in office.”

The McCain campaign regularly sends a representative to the off-the-record Wednesday meeting of about 150 conservative leaders, Norquist says.

“I’ve been working with those guys to put everybody in touch, which will be helpful to organizing,” Norquist says. “Bush had somebody at the Wednesday meeting for two years before he ran. But that person did not participate as well as Bob Heckman of McCain’s campaign does, bringing campaign people in to talk.”

“John McCain has made some progress in his effort to attract conservatives to his cause,” says Keene, president of the 1-million-member American Conservative Union. “But,” he says, “he has yet to win the sort of enthusiastic support he’ll need before the votes are actually cast in November.”

While some conservatives voice doubts about him, “This will change to some degree as the campaign develops and McCain’s operation matures,” Keene says. “But the fact remains that the prime motivator of conservatives is probably going to continue to be not John McCain but a fear of the consequences of a Barack Obama victory.”

In particular, McCain’s “cap and trade” energy proposal, which would set a limit on greenhouse gas emissions and allow entities to buy and sell rights to emit, and his refusal so far to embrace oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Region make it “difficult for conservatives to embrace McCain as their guy, but easy to make them work overtime to defeat Obama,” Keene says.

That’s why Keene and many other conservative leaders are doing “all we can to prevent such an outcome,” says Keene, who is second vice president of the National Rifle Association. He adds, “Whether this is a difference without a distinction remains to be seen, but if history is a guide, a successful candidate has to be more than simply the alternative to someone else.”

If opposition to Obama is the chief reason to support McCain, Norquist sees no problem with it.

“McCain has lined up the I-will-never-raise-your-taxes-period position, which is not where he was when he voted against the Bush tax cuts,” Norquist says. “Now he says those were pro-growth, and they were good. That’s as close as somebody gets to saying, ‘I’m sorry, I was wrong, I’ve changed my mind.’”

In addition, says Norquist, “If you care about the Second Amendment, McCain is a vast improvement over Obama. On national security, Obama is a less serious player than McCain. If you care about taxes, McCain is all the difference in the world. If you care about social conservative issues, the next president could replace one or two Supreme Court judges. That could mean Roe v. Wade could be overturned.”

Moreover, Norquist says, “If you’re a radio talk-show host or aficionado, Obama will shut down Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity by reimposing the Fairness Doctrine. “

If Obama wins, “Talk radio is just beginning to figure out that they’re out of a job,” Norquist says. “Newsmax isn’t out of a job, but Rush Limbaugh’s literally out of a job.”

Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via
e-mail. Go here now.

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