07 February 2008

McCain and the conservatives

It's all over - except for the shouting, or gnashing of teeth on the far right of the Grand Old Party.

With Mitt Romney's departure from the race today, John McCain will be the GOP candidate in November.

With just under 1,200 delegates still to be chosen in the Republican races ahead, Mike Huckabee would have to get just under 1,000 to get the nomination.

So, barring something that would fall into the "God forbid" category, McCain will carry the GOP flag this fall.

So the big question becomes, can McCain unite the Republican Party?

More specifically, can he win over the ultra-conservative wing of the party?

He tried today - at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.

"It is my sincere hope that even if you believe I have occasionally erred in my reasoning as a fellow conservative, you will still allow that I have, in many ways important to all of us, maintained the record of a conservative."--John McCain at CPAC

And just how did that go over with the social conservatives gathered in D.C. James Joyner of Outside the Beltway had this summary of the event:

McCain’s speech was conciliatory, praising Mitt Romney as “a great governor” and Mike Huckabee as a “great man” (or something along those lines). He must have used the word “conservative” 200 times. Nothing of any great substance in the speech for those of us who have been paying attention all these months.

The crowd reception was relatively enthusiastic. If there was a lot of booing, it wasn’t audible on the closed circuit; it might have been in the hall.

But, if you saw the speech on TV, what you saw may not have been the full picture, at least not according to Anne Schroeder Mullins, who's Shenanigans blog is part of the Politico Web site:

We're told from a reliable source on the ground at CPAC: "They stuffed the main room with McCain supporters. But the overflow room booed him heartily, cheered when Romney was mentioned, booed when McCain said he hopes we forgive his absence from CPAC in the past."

Our source was sure to add: "There was forced applause by the supporters, but not the whole room; laughs and scoffs when he mentioned his conservative record."

The overflow room has 100+ people in it, we're told, with minimal (seven-ish) McCain supporters.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press is reporting tonight that influential evangelical Christian leader James Dobson will cast his lot with Mike Huckabee.

Here's a short excerpt from the AP report:

Dobson released a statement Tuesday that criticized McCain for his support of embryonic stem cell research, his opposition to a federal anti-gay marriage amendment and for his temper and use of foul language.

McCain called the appearance at CPAC a "good first step" toward winning over the right wing. Can't wait to see the next step.

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