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McCain Strategist: Win Over Conservative Leaders One at a Time

By    |   Thursday, 13 March 2008 08:28 AM

Sen. John McCain will be spending a lot of face time in the coming months with top conservative leaders, in an effort to win them over one by one, top McCain strategist Charlie Black tells Newsmax.

“You have to go get the conservative leaders who have a following, one at a time. [McCain] has been doing this for several months, and he has some very prominent conservatives on board now… We’re taking them one at a time,” Black said.

McCain’s address last weekend to a closed-door session of movement conservatives at the Council on National Policy went better than some had expected. “He got a good reception, a lot of applause, and a good standing ovation at the end,” Black said. “We didn’t expect it to be unanimous. He just wanted to reach out to the group and answer their questions.”

McCain’s comments on immigration – a hot-button issue for conservatives – were surprisingly well-received, given the boos and catcalls that greeted him when he raised the issue at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., last month.

At CPAC, McCain acknowledged that he had “failed” in his efforts at immigration reform, and that he had heard the criticisms from the right that any new legislation must first secure the nation’s borders.

At CNP, McCain laid out in detail his plans to secure the border with Mexico with a mix of technologies, from a manned physical barrier to sophisticated electronic monitoring systems and Predator drones.

“But we have to remember these are God’s children,” McCain said. “We will handle this in a humane fashion.” He then pledged that no one who has come into the United States illegally “will get precedence” over someone who has come legally or who has waited legally to come into the country -- comments that were greeted with sustained applause.

Conservative strategist Morton Blackwell, a Republican national committeeman from Virginia, acknowledged that McCain was not going to win all conservatives to his cause. “But he can get a lot of people. And I have made the argument that this is the smart thing for conservatives to do.”

Blackwell told Newsmax in an interview that in addition to face time with conservative leaders, McCain has to make conservatives feel included in his campaign and in a McCain administration.

“If it appears that people who until recently did not support him for the nomination are going to be second- or third-class citizens in his campaign and administration, that’s not going to work. He has to pull into his inner circle people who did not support him for the nomination,” Blackwell said.

Many Republican strategists believe that fear and loathing of a left-wing Democratic nominee will help motivate the GOP base to get out and roll up their sleeves.

“I think that [Barack] Obama and Hillary [Clinton] are the great uniters of the right,” former Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich told Newsmax. “If you look at their views and you are right-leaning, enough said. Fear works just as well as love in politics. Fear and loathing? Absolutely.”

Black believes that voters will see a stark choice between McCain and his Democratic opponent, and he singled out Obama for his left-wing views.

The changes Obama wants to make are like “going back to the 1960s,” Black said. “Big government, more spending, higher taxes, pulling back from the world, protectionism. The last president who was protectionist was Herbert Hoover, and how did that go?”

While change is a legitimate hope on the part of voters, “McCain has been the biggest agent for reform in Washington since he’s been there,” Black added.

Blackwell and other strategists argue that McCain has a golden opportunity to rebuild the type of coalition that swept Ronald Reagan to victory in 1980 and again in 1984.

Conservatives could expect McCain to nominate federal judges who “would be far better” than judges appointed by Clinton or Obama, Blackwell said. In addition, a President McCain would should the line on federal spending, support traditional values, fight compulsory unionism, while strengthening America’s defense capabilities.

“If most conservatives do not unite to support our Republican presidential nominee, we could have a disastrous election across the board,” Blackwell warned. “Does anyone doubt that a party now dominated more than ever by extreme leftist groups would do all in their power to shut us down forever?”

Black added that conservatives will be pleased with McCain’s plans to consolidate or eliminate wasteful federal programs, as well as his efforts to rein in the bloated federal bureaucracy.

“He knows better than anybody how to reform the defense acquisition and procurement process, and he believes he could save billions and billions of dollars. Plus, there are certain defense programs that Congress has imposed on the Pentagon he says we don’t need,” Black said.

Nor will McCain shy away from entitlement reform, an area “where you could save real dollars,” Black added.

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Sen. John McCain will be spending a lot of face time in the coming months with top conservative leaders, in an effort to win them over one by one, top McCain strategist Charlie Black tells Newsmax. “You have to go get the conservative leaders who have a following, one at a...
Thursday, 13 March 2008 08:28 AM
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