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August 18, 2008

John McCain Needs a Conservative Choice for Vice President


It is no secret that many conservatives are already stretching and bending in order to accommodate the thought of voting for the man who opposed the Bush tax cuts, pushed for illegal immigrants’ amnesty and authored a campaign finance regulatory monster.


But at this point, most conservatives seem to be on board. John McCain’s heroic stance on agricultural subsidies, free trade and earmarks, his history of valor, as well as the fact that his opponent is quite possibly the most incompetent candidate the Democrats have put forth in a century, all combine to compensate for McCain’s shortcomings.


Just barely, however. Even a small McCain error can trigger an avalanche of voters falling into the open arms of the Libertarian and Constitution parties, not to mention the comforts of their warm couches on November 4.


If a minor mistake could spell disaster for McCain, then what could a major blunder do? Hopefully, we will never have to find out. But it seems that the maverick is keeping us on our toes as he gets closer to selecting a vice presidential candidate:


“And I also feel . . . that Americans want us to work together. You know, Tom Ridge is one of the great leaders and he happens to be pro-choice. And I don't think that that would necessarily rule Tom Ridge out.”


First of all, and this goes in parentheses, even though reaching across the aisle can be good when appropriate, there is nothing inherently good about “working together.” Neville Chamberlain “worked together” with the Germans, and that didn’t turn out so hot. Thus collaborative instincts cannot be a top consideration in making a vice-presidential selection. There are far more important factors that must take precedence when McCain makes his choice.


Although McCain has no problems gaining the support of hawkish voters, he has far from reached his full potential among socially conservative evangelicals, and has not yet won over enough fiscal conservatives still upset about his past actions. And seeing that he cannot win the election – even by attracting independents – without turning out the conservative base, McCain needs to make a conservative choice for vice president.


And “conservative” means all-around conservative – pro-life, a small-government advocate and a believer in America’s unique and strong position in the international scene. In other words, not Tom Ridge, not Mike Huckabee and not Ron Paul.


Former Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney supporters have already been disillusioned by the nomination of McCain, and are holding their noses to vote for him. If he picks anyone less conservative than him to be his running mate, McCain would be asking the base to also plug their ears and shut their eyes at the ballot, and that is simply not going to happen.


Think of the swing states. Ohio cannot be won without turning out its massive evangelical base, and neither can Iowa. That rules out social liberals such as Tom Ridge and Condoleezza Rice. And good luck winning New Hampshire and Nevada with Huckabee, a social conservative and a liberal on everything else, at your side. Joe Lieberman is a big no-no, leading to McCain’s loss of every swing state in the country, contrary to the misguided expectations of his moderate friends. (Just like there is nothing inherently good about working together, there is absolutely nothing inherently good about “moderation”).


This is not to mention that McCain has a duty toward the Republican Senate and House candidates whose victories depend on a turnout of conservatives, and not of independent-liberal voters who would cast a McCain-Lieberman vote only to punch a hole for congressional Democrats.


McCain needs a well-rounded vice-presidential running mate. Tim Pawlenty and Bobby Jindal would be merely fine, as they teeter on the edges or fiscal conservatism. Better choices would be Carly Fiorina, Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson and Michael Steele, though admittedly each carries a bundle of liabilities. Mark Sanford, Eric Cantor, Sarah Palin, Marsha Blackburn and Rob Portman would be closer to the excellent conservative choice McCain can make – and, hopefully, the choice he will make.

© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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