At a town hall meeting in Bedford, N.H., a man vied for the attention of Senator John McCain.
With John McCain on a hot streak coming out of the Iowa caucuses, speculation is turning to McCain's chances as the Republican standard-bearer. Will conservatives who long ago wrote McCain off as old news - or hopelessly liberal - give the Arizona Senator a second look?
Can McCain win the backing of conservatives in a general election matchup against the Democratic nominee (who's looking to be Barack Obama, if the Iowa results serve as a decisive harbinger of change)?
Jim Addison over at Wizbang offers a concise endorsement for a shift to McCain among conservatives (via Memeorandum):
My long lamented friend Jesse Burke, a man who lived in excruciating pain from the most severe and crippling form of rheumatoid arthritis, inspired many people to overcome their challenges. His motto was, "A winner never quits - and a quitter never wins!" He never met John McCain, that I know of, but they share kindred spirits.
I, with many others, wrote off the McCain campaign earlier last year after they had squandered their early money for little result, and the candidate moved in to "restructure" the effort. Normally in politics that is an early sign of a quick exit from a race. McCain vowed to fight on, and most of us in the chattering classes yawned and turned our attention elsewhere.
Award points for perseverance: McCain slogged on with his streamlined campaign. His return to viability consisted of equal parts of his own recovery and of the gradual diffusion of support for his rivals. The Republican nomination race is once again a wide-open contest, and guess who is in the thick of it?
As most conservatives do, I have grave reservations on McCain's past positions on Campaign Finance Reform, the "Gang of 14," and the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill. I have on more than one occasion vowed I would stay home rather than vote for him for President, but I must admit that if the choice presented is McCain or Hillary Clinton/Barack Obama/John Edwards, I could not, in good conscience, not vote for him.
For conservatives, holding one's nose with one hand as the other pulls a lever is nothing new. We've been doing it for decades, with the sole reprieve of Ronald Reagan (who violated enough conservative principles himself to earn our ire).
If it's McCain, or Hillary, what say you? If not voting is your choice, do you not at least admit you would endanger the country thereby?
See a also RightwingSparkle, "Why McCain?"
The choice hasn't been hard for me. See my earlier posts on the McCain campaign, and his comeback, here, here, here, here , here, here, here, here, here, and here.
Why McCain? Why should McCain be the pick for conservatives in 2008?
I made the case for McCain throughout 2007.
I've heard all the criticisms: He's too old; he's too liberal; he's selling out our First Amendment rights with his liberal alliance on campaign finance; he's in bed with Kennedy on immigration...and so on.
But McCain has been right on the war in Iraq, which should be a decisive issue for conservatives. His recent debate performances have been steely; and throughout it all, thick and thin, McCain has stood strong on his values, not jumping ship on all the issues when facing heat or when the political wind is turning.
McCain's also "the one" on issues besides the war and terrorism. He's firm on spending, and he'll work to reform earmarks. He's pro-life as well. On immigration, he's learned his lessons and will stick with border security first before worrying about the other pressing elements of comprehensive reform.
The conservative opposition to McCain doesn't serve the GOP well. Thompson waited way too long to enter the race, and Giuliani's primary strategy is flawed. Huckabee is a good guy, but he's way out of his league on foreign policy, and his record on crime and fiscal policy leaves a lot to be desired.
McCain will pull Republicans together with his ability to promote compromise and accomodation. Partisanship's vital, of course, but the country's obviously seeking change, and tweaking some conservative positions might work to coopt some of the demands for a new direction.
I suggest readers take a few minutes to review McCain's commencement address at the New School University in New York from May 2006.
McCain's address is a magnificent statement of America's enduring principles and values. It is also a fair and humble speech, placing America's faults within the context of our historic opportunities. These are the words of a true patriot, of a true leader.
I hope conservatives will recognize McCain - like any man - has made mistakes, but he doesn't compromise his values, and he's right for America in 2008.
Photo Credit: New York Times