Sen. John McCain has emerged as the GOP front-runner. Barring any unforeseen problems, he will be the GOP nominee this year for president. But how did John McCain win, especially with so many conservatives against him?
Dick Morris suggested on Bill O’Reilly’s show Wednesday night that the GOP is just more liberal than we thought.
Dick is usually on target, but on this point, I respectfully disagree. The GOP is still very much the party of conservative Ronald Reagan. In fact, we keep hearing a frequent lament during this campaign: Where is Reagan?
Indeed, there has been no Reagan candidate to emerge so far.
With no candidate to back, the major pundits are emphasizing who they are against. Rush Limbaugh is clearly against John McCain. And each of the other major candidates in this race — Giuliani, Fred Thompson, Huckabee, Romney — have all had strong constituencies in the GOP that have opposed them.
But these same pundits and constituencies never seem to have a candidate for whom they support.
Had conservatives united around Mitt Romney, for example, the outcome with McCain would have been decidedly different. Many believe, however, that Romney has been too inconsistent on key issues. Others fear a backlash against his Mormonism.
Back to Dick Morris’ point about GOP being more liberal than many thought. McCain is not a liberal. He is a conservative. As such, he was the least offensive of the GOP candidates who ran in the Florida primary.
I think Florida voters saw it that way when they went to the polls and gave McCain a plurality (not a majority) in a very crowded field.
McCain is a maverick. McCain’s lifetime American Conservative Union voting record is 83 percent. Not bad! He is also pro-life, pro-gun, for limited government, and a strong national defense. He passes a certain acceptability level using the typical litmus tests for most Republicans.
Where McCain fails is on key issues that raise cackles from Republican stalwarts: He opposed the Bush tax cuts, supported campaign finance reform, supported Ted Kennedy’s approach to immigration, and supported global warming initiatives.
For sure, McCain is not a liberal, just like Sen. Lieberman is not a conservative.
Conservative readers of Newsmax love Joe Lieberman (as our own polling shows). But Lieberman’s voting record is solidly in the Democratic aisle, except when it comes to national security matters.
Lieberman is a maverick too, which draws a lot of applause from conservatives who appreciate his stand on these issues. Likewise, liberals tend to applaud McCain for breaking from his party. That drives conservatives nuts.
The big question now that remains is if McCain can energize the conservative base — a must-do if he wants to win this coming November.
Some pundits suggest that GOP voters will rally around McCain no matter what — even if a “ham sandwich” were running against Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic opponent.
I strongly disagree with this sentiment. After eight years of being disappointed by the Bush administration, Reagan Republicans are likely to vote their conscience this year rather than the party line.
John McCain needs to give them some really good reasons to make them think twice. Hillary won’t be reason enough.
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