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January 29, 2008
Why Fredheads Can
Embrace John McCain and Mitt Romney
Let’s face it: the majority of those who supported Fred Thompson did so
because they sincerely believed that he was the only reliable
conservative in the race. Few questioned his commitment to conservative
principles. Not even his opponents, who picked on his speaking style and
campaign schedule rather than his policy proposals, questioned his
Upon Thompson’s withdrawal, Mitt Romney released the following
statement: “Throughout this campaign, Fred Thompson brought a laudable
focus to the challenges confronting our country and the solutions
necessary to meet them. He stood for strong conservative ideas and
believed strongly in the need to keep our conservative coalition
Wow! One heck of an admission for a candidate whose campaign has
centered on claiming the embodiment of Reaganite principles.
Romney then said that Thompson “focused on pulling together the old
Reagan coalition, the conservative coalition of social, economic and
foreign policy conservatives . . . And so his leaving the race is sad
for those who were big fans of his, but it probably helps my effort in
terms of bringing together those Reagan coalition individuals, and it
probably will be a bit of a boost for me.”
Romney praises Thompson for being a candidate in the spirit of the
Reagan coalition, only to subsequently claim Fredheads as his own,
because hey, he’s a candidate in the spirit of the Reagan coalition too,
and he’s the only one left in the race.
Not so fast, Mitt.
the dismal field of Republicans remaining in the race, Romney does have
a legitimate claim to Thompson’s supporters, but he is not the only one.
Fredheads will certainly not flock to Rudy Giuliani and Mike Huckabee in
large numbers, since between these two candidates, each leg of the
Republican tripod is effectively shattered. But there is one more.
Despite the vitriolic language spewed at John McCain by many prominent
conservatives, the Arizona senator can make just as good a case for the
Romney has made a great effort to reach a spot from which he can appeal
to conservatives from all stripes. He has engaged in significant
stretching to reconcile his record with his current positions, and where
stretching would have caused a snap, he flat out announced his
conversion on the issue. And considering his situation, this strategy
has seen some success. Look at where he is now, and compare that with
Giuliani, who has stuck by some of his more liberal positions.
Indeed, policy-wise, Romney is close to where he should be to get the
nomination. He understands that the war on terror is not merely a
venture engineered by President Bush, but that it is a long-brewing
battle between Islamic radicalism and the modern world. He is pro-life
and continues to milk his experience in the private sector to establish
his potential role as the economy’s stimulator. All of that is fine and
dandy, and has in fact gotten him reasonable support from the former
But Romney needs to understand that while ideology is paramount,
Fredheads aren’t necessarily willing to sacrifice other crucial factors
such as consistency, reliability and trustworthiness. This is where
McCain comes in.
For one, a young McCain turned down an opportunity to be released by the
North Vietnamese before some of his fellow prisoners of war, and spent
an additional five years in a box because of it. No matter what you
think of his positions, McCain is an American hero who has defined honor
better than any dictionary ever will.
McCain has voted his instinct even when it earned him abhorrence from
many Republicans. He has not forgone his beliefs even when they were
politically inconvenient. He has earned well-deserved respect for his
pronouncements that he would rather lose an election than lose a war.
With McCain, conservatives will not always get what they want, but they
will get exactly what he says they will get. This is a trait that
attracted conservatives to Thompson, and that now brings them closer to
course, honor and respect is not sufficient to earn the conservative
vote, and an example of this is Giuliani’s courageous steadfastness on
issues such as abortion and the resultant deterioration in his numbers.
The right ideology is a mandatory prerequisite, and McCain does have the
With the exception of his positions on a few issues such as illegal
immigration and campaign finance, McCain is an overall conservative. He
is pro-life, a leader on strong foreign policy and aggressive on cutting
spending. He denounced agricultural subsidies in Iowa when Romney did
the opposite. His lifetime American Conservative Union rating is a
respectable 82.3, which is impressive considering Fred Thompson is only
four points higher.
Now, McCain is by no means ideal, and neither is Romney. But both of
them would motivate former Fredheads to drive to Ohio and get the vote
out in the days before the general election. In the end, it’s all about
preserving the Reagan coalition, however imperfectly. And both McCain
and Romney are capable of doing it.
© 2008 North Star
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