Sanford's second-half support for McCain

Pundits have often included Governor Mark Sanford on their short list for VP choices, but until now, Sanford hasn’t even bothered to endorse any Republican candidate. Yesterday, Sanford endorsed John McCain, and wrote in the Wall Street Journal that his fellow conservatives needed to come off the bench and get into the second half of the ballgame:

I sat out the first half, not endorsing a candidate, occupied with my day job and four young boys at home. But I’m now stepping onto the field and going to work to help John McCain. It’s important that conservatives do the same.

It’s easy to get caught up in the pursuit of political perfection, and to assume that if a candidate doesn’t agree with you 100% of the time, then he doesn’t deserve your support. In fact, Mr. McCain is a lot closer to 100% than many conservatives realize. He has never voted for a tax increase in his 25 years in Congress. He holds an 83% lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union. He is listed as a taxpayer hero by Citizens Against Government Waste. And he is supported by noted conservatives Phil Gramm, Jack Kemp and others.

The process of iron sharpening iron is good for the GOP. But now, I believe, the time has passed for focusing on what divides us.

It would be easy to pass this off as Sanford’s attempt to make the case for himself as VP, but anyone who has followed Sanford’s career knows that he doesn’t do much pandering. He bucked his own party to fight pork in his own state. Sanford gained notoriety by embarrassing Republicans and Democrats in the legislature by arriving with piglets under each arm after they attempted to overrule him on spending limits. He doesn’t exactly fit the mold of a party-above-all pol.

That makes his argument here more compelling that if it had come from most other Republicans. Sanford would normally be the first in line to argue conservatism over Republicanism, but the options leave little room for principled apathy. Under a Barack Obama presidency, spending would go up $800 billion dollars, and taxes would increase in many different income categories and levels. Hillary proposes about the same amount in spending increases but refuses to say where she’ll find the money.

John McCain hasn’t used the campaign trail to offer hundreds of billions in expansion of the federal government. He has fought tax hikes his entire career and earmarked zero dollars in twenty years.  Sanford explains that the federal government will start facing massive economic crises in the next five to ten years if we don’t elect a President willing to end that expansion and force Congress to plan responsibly for the future.   If conservatives think that waiting out a Democratic debacle will make it easier to elect a more conservative candidate later, Sanford argues that time will have run out and the next President will get left holding the bag no matter which party holds the White House.

Sanford’s endorsement should serve as a wake-up call to conservatives across the nation.  The general election will present a choice for the nation — whether we should continue expanding federal entitlements when our current obligations will go unmet, or whether we will have responsible leadership enforcing some long-overdue discipline instead.  Obama and Clinton  offer the same old tax-and-spend policies that have brought us to the brink of ruin, as well as the same old pork-barrel mentality.  John McCain is the candidate that actually represents change in 2008.