A good conservative speech, no matter how stirring, will not solve the problems that grass-roots conservatives have with Sen. John McCain, Richard A. Viguerie, America's leading conservative direct-mail guru, said Thursday.
Viguerie made his comments in response to John McCain’s address Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. Prior to McCain’s speech, various news reports suggested that the speech gave the Arizona senator a chance to make amends with conservatives and bring them on board his bandwagon.
“Rhetoric isn’t enough,” Viguerie said. “To get the enthusiastic support of conservatives – support he must have, to win – Senator McCain must make his case with deeds, not just words.”
That’s not just because of McCain’s recent record on important issues, Viguerie said. It’s also because of the record of the Republican Party itself.
“From Eisenhower to Nixon to both Bushes, conservatives have heard conservative rhetoric from Republican presidential candidates. Each time, they were disappointed – even betrayed – by the people and the party they had trusted.
“After the last eight or 10 years, in which Republican leaders were elected with conservative votes, but then betrayed conservative principles, grassroots conservatives are not so willing to take John McCain at his word. He is an honorable man, but, given the record of the Republican Party and given his own record, conservative rhetoric is not enough to convince people.
“Conservatives will not be so trusting this time.
“Senator McCain must surround himself with conservatives in policy positions, so that conservatives know what sort of people will make key decisions in a McCain Administration. He must have a number of Sister Souljah moments with the Washington establishment liberals who consider him their favorite Republican. He must make conservatives cheer for him every night when they watch the news on TV – not just when they hear him give a good speech.”
Viguerie said that McCain has “only a few weeks” to “bring conservatives up to a comfort level with him. If he is to do it, in the words of Macbeth, ‘’twere well it were done quickly.’
“In 1992, George H.W. Bush waited until the Republican Convention to reach out to conservatives, giving Pat Buchanan a major place on the program and so on. It didn’t work. The media savaged Bush for pandering to conservatives, and conservatives saw it as too little, too late.”
If McCain does not act soon, “conservatives will start writing off the presidential race,” Viguerie said. “Yes, most – not all – will vote for him, if he is the Republican nominee. But they will not make telephone calls, send out e-mails and postcards, go door to door, contribute money, and do all the hard work that makes victory possible in November.”
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