“I am proud to be a conservative,” John McCain declared, acknowledging that he cannot win the presidency without the support of conservatives.
McCain spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington on Thursday as he tried to mend fences with the Republican right, which views him as too liberal on a number of issues.
And he was greeted by the conference with surprising enthusiasm, with applause before his speech so lengthy that he had to say “thank you” more than a dozen times.
Speaking just hours after Mitt Romney dropped out of the presidential race, McCain acknowledged he had “the distinction of being the GOP front-runner,” and “intended to keep it.”
As such, he said he had the “responsibility to unite the party, and conceded: “I cannot prevail over the Democrats without conservatives…
“I have defended many positions we share. I am proud to be a conservative … My record is one of a mainstream conservative.”
As a candidate, he promised to “offer a clearly conservative approach to government, and to “stand by my conservative convictions.”
McCain vowed to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, abolish the Alternative Minimum Tax, and protect second-amendment rights. He boasted of his “24-year pro-life record,” and his support of the troop surge in Iraq.
He warned that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama would raise taxes if elected, and vowed to lower taxes, in particular corporate taxes.
Clinton and Obama “want to increase the size of the federal government,” McCain stated. “I intend to reduce it.”
There were some scattered boos when he brought up the subject of illegal immigration, but he said he now pledged to make it “the highest priority to secure our borders first” before addressing other aspects of the illegal immigration problem.
But he was greeted with hearty applause when he vowed: “I will not sign a bill with earmarks in it — any earmarks.”
And on Iran, he said: “I will tell Iran that the United States will not permit a government that makes the destruction of Israel its fondest wish.”
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