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GOP riveted by McCain's momentum

By Carol Devine-Molin
web posted January 21, 2008

All is not well in conservative paradise. It's more than the fact that we're without a solid GOP presidential frontrunner to coalesce around during this primary season. It's that many of us are disenchanted with Arizona Senator John McCain and, to a lesser degree, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who are leading the Republic pack of presidential hopefuls (albeit in a race that might well continue to prove fluid). Although McCain and Huckabee are now polishing their halos and towing the conservative line on various issues, they both have a history of Left-leaning politics that gives rise to conservative kvetching.

In the past, I've been especially critical of Senator McCain regarding his support of the amnesty bill for illegal aliens that he co-sponsored with Teddy Kennedy, and his pivotal role with the "Gang of 14" - comprised of so-called "Senate moderates" - that prevented the GOP Senate leadership from enacting a much needed rule change that would have stopped the Democrats from abusing judicial filibuster. Simply put, McCain has frequently given short-shrift to conservative principles on key issues, including his failure to support the Bush tax cuts in past years, and his involvement in bipartisan campaign reform (McCain-Feingold) that resulted in a "frontal assault" on political speech. The single most instructive piece on McCain's political record was authored by constitutional attorney and radio talk-show host Mark Levin, dated 1/11/08, which can be found at National Review Online.

As to Mike Huckabee, he's clearly a charming man and a good Christian, having been ordained a Southern Baptist minister. Unfortunately, despite his protestations, Huckabee is documented as being fiscally liberal, which is anathema to conservatives. In Arkansas, he had a significant history of tax hiking and government spending. On a more positive note, there's every indication that he's now moved toward a more conservative stance on issues related to illegal immigration, which is all fine and good. However, I doubt that he has the broad-based appeal that will garner him the Republican presidential nomination. Sorry to offend anyone, but that's my perspective.

John McCainThe real thorn in the side of conservatives is John McCain. He represents a dilemma for conservatives during this election cycle since he's gaining popularity, advancing nicely and excoriating him might actually backfire. How should conservatives tackle the McCain factor? Actually, there's little that can be done. McCain's a known commodity, and, arguably, conservative moaning and groaning will have little impact on his candidacy.  He's a complicated man that engenders both admiration and frustration among Republicans. Noteworthy, the odds are improving that he'll "go the distance" in this race, whether conservatives like it to not.

Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised to see McCain on the GOP ticket running for president or being tapped for vice president. Not only is McCain very much admired for his integrity and character pursuant to his personal story of heroism in Vietnam, he's widely seen as a national security expert that can keep America safe during this war-on-terror. People do remember that he consistently maintained that we needed more troops in Iraq in order to succeed, and he's been thoroughly vindicated on that point.

Moreover, McCain's fiscal ideas are clearly resonating with the electorate. As syndicated columnist and CNBC host Larry Kudlow noted in his 1/13/08 piece, "McCain's message of cutting federal spending and eliminating budget earmarks is hitting home. More and more voters seem to be worried about excess government spending, and McCain remains the favorite on this issue. But McCain is now talking more like a spending and tax cutter, drawing the endorsement of time-tested supply-sider Jack Kemp and long-term deficit-spending foe Phil Gramm, the former Texas senator. Critically, McCain has pledged to make the Bush tax cuts permanent."

This is not an endorsement of John McCain, just an acknowledgment that he's progressing well in the polls and in public opinion. The GOP presidential nomination is still "up for grabs", but a nominee will probably emerge in the not-too-distant future, by Super Tuesday, February 5th, or soon thereafter. That being said, conservative Republicans certainly don't want to see our nominee, whoever that might be, excessively battered in the primary process. Yes, we that critique can offer up our points, but let's exhibit a modicum of restraint, and tread more judiciously than usual. Tone it down a notch, so to speak.  The liberals are counting on conservative in-fighting during the primaries to generate a damaged GOP candidate and more fodder to fling back at us in the general election.  Let's deprive them of their hot dream, at least to the degree that's possible.

With that in mind, the Democrat blogosphere is already thinking ahead, as it connives to manipulate and "taint" the vote in the Michigan open primary with "mischief-causing crossover Democratic votes". Essentially, Left-wing activists reportedly intend to vote for Mitt Romney and help him stay in the primaries since he has the funds to continue to launch attack ads on fellow GOP hopefuls, thereby creating further dissension and divisiveness among Republicans. Got that?  A rather inventive bunch of Leftists, don't you think? I hope it dawns on them that Mitt Romney is poised to win Michigan anyway since it's his home state.

At the liberal website "Daily Kos", founder Markos Moulitsas recently stated: "This isn't a pro-Romney effort... Nope, we're pushing Romney because at the end of the day, Romney is spending a lot of money on ads trashing his fellow Republicans. We want more of that money spent trashing his fellow Republicans. We want an unsettled field with Republicans fragmented and fighting. We want the theocons (Huckabee), the neocons (McCain), and the corporate cons (Romney) to maintain viable top-tier candidates in the race for as long as possible, since it fuels their civil war. Heck, if we truly hit the jackpot, we might even get a brokered GOP convention." ESR

Carol Devine-Molin is a regular contributor to several online magazines.



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