McCain at CPAC

posted at 10:25 am on February 6, 2008 by Bryan

The GOP’s front runner addresses conservatives at the Conservative Political Action Committe’s conference Thursday at 3 pm in Washington. He’ll follow Mitt Romney by a few hours, as Romney addresses CPAC at 12:30. Mike Huckabee has been relegated to the Saturday slot, when most CPACers will be heading home.

Thursday’s speech is obviously high stakes for both Romney and McCain, though given the state of the race it’s more of an opportunity for the latter than the former. Romney has done well of late in winning over conservative pundits and voters, mostly by not being John McCain. McCain has continued to rack up primary wins without winning majorities of either Republican or conservative voters but it’s tough to imagine him winning the general election if the Republican right is sitting home. We can sort out the wherefores and whys McCain keeps winning without taking the majority of conservative votes at some future date, but right now I’m more interested in anticipating what McCain will do when he addresses CPAC.

Last year, McCain was the only major GOP candidate to skip CPAC. All of the other candidates attended and addressed the conference to make their pitches for conservative support. They were all received warmly. The buzz last year was that McCain was intentionally snubbing conservatives by staying away from the conference, and that left a lot of bad blood that’s still lingering. Add in McCain’s various non-conservative transgressions over the years plus the fact that he’s winning the GOP nomination largely without conservative support and you have the makings of a very interesting moment in the campaign. What will McCain do with it?

Will he take up Mary Matalin’s suggestions and essentially announce that he’s going to conservative school?

** announcing in his CPAC speech that he is leaving CPAC and going straight to Newt’s for a comprehensive tutelage on “Real Change.”

** adopting Fred’s immigration plan and Rudy’s tax plan;

** announcing that he would establish a Cabinet-level Domestic Policy Czar who will report directly to him, be housed in the White House, and would would oversee and consolidate all the “soft Cabinets.” This would be followed by the announcement that he planned to name Jeb Bush as the czar;

** announcing Ted Olson as attorney general;

** announcing George Allen as secretary of the Treasury;

** recognizing that Romney has made and could put blue states in play, and is relentlessly optimistic about America. Therefore he would install him as RNC general chairman to traverse the country and chatterati shows as the 21st century face of conservatism.

I think the first point is DOA. McCain is winning without capitulating to anyone, so he may figure why start now? The second point, he’ll take Rudy’s tax plan but reject Fred’s immigration plan. He also won’t say a word about the open borders zealots on his campaign unless someone asks him about them, and when that happens he’ll dodge the question or, depending on who asks it and in what setting it’s asked, crush the questioner. Ted Olson as Atty Gen seems a lock and would be a good choice, though the Democrat Congress would fight him hammer and tong on that. I’m not sure I get the point of the “Cabinet czar” other than to create yet another layer of bureaucracy. It’s probably a non-starter anyway, and too arcane to make any difference if he did do that. And McCain evidently loathes Mitt Romney, so it’s unlikely that McCain would hand Romney any prominent office. Remember, Romney managed for profit, not patriotism in McCain’s view. So the points that require McCain to step outside himself all strike me as DOA.

So what will he do? I see one of two scenarios playing out.

Nice John McCain shows up, makes conciliatory sounds about having “gotten the message” on conservative issues, promises to change but still has in his back pocket that statement he made after South Carolina about not having actually changed any of his positions. Nice McCain won’t really fool anyone, but he won’t be trying to, he’ll just make the plausible case that the Democrats are too weak to be trusted in a time of war. The fact that he’s apparently using some sort of resurrected Reagan to introduce him at CPAC suggests that this may be the way he’s going.

But there is another plausible scenario. Mean John McCain shows up and uses CPAC to create his own Sister Souljah moment. Think about it. He’s winning without conservatives now by attracting independents and centrist Democrats, though his TV ads and campaign rhetoric all cast him as the Reaganite in the race. CPAC isn’t large; there might be 5,000 or 6,000 in attendance this year. CPAC is made up of serious conservatives who could easily be painted as “radical” or “intolerant” even though they’re not. McCain snubbed CPAC last year. He could come this year to announce, essentially, that he doesn’t need them this year. The MSM would love it and he would get tremendous buzz over the short term and he could use it as a “new kind of Republican” talking point all the way to November.

I think the first scenario is much more likely than the second. He’ll make conciliatory sounds but underneath will be the same John McCain, secure in his own mind that he’s winning without conservatives so there’s no reason to change anything for them. But the second is plausible, unfortunately. McCain does have a history of slamming the right, and he’s probably egotistical enough to get carried away with himself and try something dramatic. And other than costing him a few thousand votes he already can’t count on and the support of pundits who are already skeptical of him, what’s the down side? In his mind, I mean. I’m not sure that he sees any reason to listen to conservatives who are discontented with him at this point. So Thursday will be interesting, to say the least.


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Comment pages: 1 2

Hmmm… Stabbing ‘Nam vets in the back and marrying into money. Who does that remind me of again?

Misha I on February 6, 2008 at 11:54 AM

Sounds famliar.Say, wasn’t there something about a brief flirtation with a Dem candidate for a VP spot? Would he be one of the Dems McCain now wants to fight? Strange days indeed.

a capella on February 6, 2008 at 12:03 PM

NemoParticularis on February 6, 2008 at 11:50 AM

It really is the epitome of sheer childish selfishness, this anti-McCain vitriol. It’s really disturbing.

amkun on February 6, 2008 at 12:04 PM

funky chicken on February 6, 2008 at 11:57 AM

What the hell are you even talking about?

Is this 1988? Is this 1998?

No.

This is 2008. The McCain of 1998 would get my vote for sure, as Bob Dole said in his letter that the McCain he knew while in Congress was a great conservative and one of the strongest GOP backers. The problem is that man died after 2000. He lost to GWB, and became a completely self-centered, self-serving destructive force against conservatives and the GOP.

THAT is why he has no chance in 2008 to win, and it is all his own fault. He made the choice to do what he did and treat the base poorly, so now he reaps what he sowed.

Voidseeker on February 6, 2008 at 12:05 PM

THAT is why he has no chance in 2008 to win, and it is all his own fault. He made the choice to do what he did and treat the base poorly, so now he reaps what he sowed.

Voidseeker on February 6, 2008 at 12:05 PM

Bingo!

kcd on February 6, 2008 at 12:07 PM

This is just too depressing.

I have not been in a funk like this since the post election haze of Nov 2006.

McCain-Feingold will impact McCain’s presidential run. He needs conservatives to back him and donate. “Beat Hillary” is not enough to raise money. He has my vote he wants my wallet. Fat chance.

Theworldisnotenough on February 6, 2008 at 12:08 PM

Toe the party line comrade Maverick. The proletariat will be proud. Down with all capitalist pigs, benefiting from the sweat and blood of the motherland’s workers.–Cold Steel on February 6, 2008 at 11:49 AM

You speak of yourself. Of me you are wrong.

You provide another example of a Mitt supporter’s incapacity to see others from any vantage point outside of your personal inaccurate point of reference.

You do not speak for me, Cold Steel.

“If you took offense, don’t be so sensitive.” You excuse your demeaning message without either a retraction or an apology, just as you applied your offense broadly, “Nothing irritates blue collars like success.”

As per following Mitt’s message or not, we have from the start. My personal observation from the beginning was that if Mitt were elected, the people he would bring to power are very elitist and invective towards any who differ, to the point that there is no recourse to injustices.

maverick muse on February 6, 2008 at 12:09 PM

It really is the epitome of sheer childish selfishness, this anti-McCain vitriol. It’s really disturbing.

amkun on February 6, 2008 at 12:04 PM

Not capitulating on your beliefs is “sheer childish selfishness”? If Hillary were to switch parties and win the nomination you would still vote for her simply to take some insecure “pleasure” from being on the winning side for a few years. That is the real childish behavior.

What should I expect from a bandwagon moderate/DemocratLite. I don’t know how new you are to politics, but I have held my nose for too many faux republicans and this one is the last straw. You will get it eventually.

ClassicCon on February 6, 2008 at 12:14 PM

maverick muse on February 6, 2008 at 11:45 AM

You are an ignorant douche. Try using the sour grapes reference in context why don’t cha? Or do you even KNOW the context?

csdeven on February 6, 2008 at 12:14 PM

maverick muse on February 6, 2008 at 12:09 PM

You involved yourself in a discussion with Chosen One, who trolls along picking fights with invective. I engaged and you took offense. I apologize that you take offense at it. Mitt has never employed an elitist attitude in this campaign. You cannot point to a specific act. That’s what I’m referring to when I state you are projecting. I am the embodiment of the elite: those making $60-70k pencil pushing my way the whole week through. Thank you for outing me.

Cold Steel on February 6, 2008 at 12:16 PM

It matters not.

By the time the November elections roll around, the Fourth Estate will have him carved up like a Smithfield Ham.

franksalterego on February 6, 2008 at 12:19 PM

McCain will “reach out” and say:

“BOGASC!

Bend over.
Grab ankles.
Start cheering.”

Wave medals and exit.

profitsbeard on February 6, 2008 at 12:21 PM

It matters not.

By the time the November elections roll around, the Fourth Estate will have him carved up like a Smithfield Ham.

franksalterego on February 6, 2008 at 12:19 PM

This has been the MSM/Dim mission all along…and it worked.

kcd on February 6, 2008 at 12:22 PM

There needs to be an LPAC for McCain. That way everyone can drop the pretence.

Tim Pancoast on February 6, 2008 at 12:22 PM

Cold Steel on February 6, 2008 at 12:16 PM

These McVanity shills talk out both sides of their class envy mouths.

One minute Mitt is an elitist that can’t identify with the common man, and the next he’s a socialist for trying to get the common man health care.

csdeven on February 6, 2008 at 12:23 PM

Buy Danish, it is you who suffer the sour grape syndrome.
maverick muse on February 6, 2008 at 11:45 AM

Really, how so? Do you see me lash out at blue collar workers, pencil pushers, elites, or whatever group inspires either your admiration or resentment?

Everyone of these groups have their own contributions to make and no one group is more or less virtuous.

There’s a place for everyone at my table, and you will never see me complain about any economic group as long as they aren’t on the government dole for no good reason.

Buy Danish on February 6, 2008 at 12:45 PM

Oh God. Ted Sampley got to the Emperor Misha.

funky chicken on February 6, 2008 at 12:51 PM

In other words, the question about McCain is: taqiyya, or open jihad?

someone on February 6, 2008 at 1:14 PM

A caller to Rush summed it up perfectly, why are we being asked to support McCain in the name of “party loyalty” when McCain has shown no loyalty to the party himself?

echosyst on February 6, 2008 at 2:51 PM

It really is the epitome of sheer childish selfishness, this anti-McCain vitriol. It’s really disturbing. – amkun on February 6, 2008 at 12:04 PM

What is disturbing is your misuse of the English language in your reference to my 11:50 AM post. How, precisely, is what I wrote childishly selfish to the point of being vitriolic? I realize that, for you (as for many others, especially Huckabee supporters) facts can often be noisome and noxious. But they are still facts.

McCain’s record speaks for itself, and the story it tells is anything but conservative. That is a fact.

McCain has alienated a sizable portion of the Reagan coalition base of the GOP. That is a fact.

Many conservatives simply will not vote for him. Period. That is a fact.

Without the support of a significant percentage of the conservative base, he will lose. That is a fact.

This analysis may be saddening and, perhaps, even frustrating, but it is neither vitriolic nor childishly selfish. Rather, it is the unvarnished truth – one you had better start getting used to.

NemoParticularis on February 6, 2008 at 4:40 PM

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