John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Getting Conservatives Enthusiastic About McCain

Posted on August 24, 2008



            I have an ongoing debate with a couple of my conservative friends about this upcoming election.  I believe that a John McCain victory is essential for our national security.  They believe that an Obama victory would usher in a Republican majority in two quick years.  Don’t worry, they say, Obama will screw it up so bad, we will get the majority back in no time.


            There is some precedent for that calculation.  In 1992, George Bush the First lost to Bill Clinton, because conservatives decided to stay home.  Two years later, the conservatives were motivated enough to deliver the first Republican Congress in forty years.


            Many polls have noted that there is an enthusiasm gap between the two candidates.  McCain supporters are not nearly as excited about the Republican nominee as Obama supporters are about the junior Senator from Illinois.  Like my unnamed friends, many conservatives will vote for McCain but they won’t be that excited about it.


            I believe that most conservatives will come home to McCain and that their excitement will grow as the election draws closer.  Most polls reflect that conservatives are backing McCain at about the same numbers as they supported Bush.  McCain’s performance at the Saddleback Church will only help him with social conservatives.  Obama, on the other hand, is still struggling to attract a significant amount of Reagan Democrats who voted for Hillary Clinton in the primary. 


            But enthusiasm is important in an election.  Enthusiasm gets the campaign signs put up, the phone banks manned, the get-out-the-vote volunteers motivated.  Without more enthusiasm from Republicans, Obama may very well win.


            And to get that kind of enthusiasm, there needs to be a good answer to the question raised by my friends:  would it be better for McCain to win or let Obama win so the Congressional Republicans can bounce back in 2010 with a new majority? 


            Here are seven reasons for conservatives to support McCain now:


1)    The situation overseas:  It is a dangerous world out there.  Putin is on the march.  The Chinese are growing more powerful every day.  Islamic extremists threaten to topple Pakistan and get access to nuclear weapons.  This is not time for rookies to be running the country, especially rookies who say that they are “citizens of the world.” Conservatives get that.

2)    The Judiciary:  It is not just about the Supreme Court.  Getting the right judges who actually believe in the Constitution is one of the top concerns of conservative Republicans.  Obama’s judicial philosophy will not make those conservatives very happy.

3)    Taxes:  If you want your taxes to go up, vote for Obama.  They might go up under McCain (the Bush tax cuts expire in 2010, so they will go up no matter who is President) but Obama’s plan to increase taxes on investment, social security, income and just about everything else under the sun is breathtaking.    And once those tax hikes go into effect, they will be hard to repeal as long as Obama is President.

4)    Giving a blank check to the Democratic Congress:  Barack Obama will not veto anything coming from the Democrat-dominated Congress if he is President. If you like a little pork with your breakfast, you will get pork all day long with this arrangement.  Conservatives who are concerned about the size and scope of government should be afraid of anybody who gives a blank check to these guys on Capitol Hill.

5)    Big Labor:  The Bush Administration has kept a close eye on the labor movement, making certain that the labor bosses don’t steal their members blind.  But all of that oversight goes out the window if Democrats run everything.  Union corruption, coercion and contempt for business will be the result if Obama is able to win in November.

6)    40 years:  What happened in 1994 was unique.  We cannot bank on that event to happen again.  What if Obama doesn’t completely screw up?  What if he is able to effectively use the bully-pulpit to move the country leftward?  What if the economy takes off (through no fault of the junior Senator from Illinois) just like it did under Bill Clinton?  Never take the next election for granted.   Win the one you got.  It took forty years for Republicans to take back the House after losing it in 1954.  Don’t count on Republicans getting it back in 2010.

7)    John McCain is a true conservative:  It is the movement that needs a make-over, not John McCain.  McCain was right on many issues where conservative leaders failed to lead.  He was right to fight corruption.  He was right to take on special interests.  He was right to call for sacrifice and the patriotic virtues of putting the country first.  He was right to fight for the freedom of religion, and he was right to resist the impulse to use religion as political weapon.   On issue after issue, McCain was right where other conservative leaders have failed and have had to resign or face prosecution.  McCain is a true conservative by the truest definition of conservative, as defined by Barry Goldwater in “The Conscience of a Conservative”.


For conservatives, the election of Barack Obama would be a disaster, while a John McCain Presidency might just be a pleasant surprise.  Conservatives might not be happy with everything McCain does as President, but let’s face it, conservatives aren’t supposed to be happy about the government.  That is not their nature. 


But the stakes in this election are huge.  For conservatives, like my friends who wonder if we should just let Obama win this one, they need to not only understand the stakes but also get enthusiastic about the possibilities of John McCain in the White House.

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