McCain decided to show he could take on the critics by speaking for only ten minutes and opening the balance of his time to questions. This was a mistake on his part. While he departed the stage thinking he did well, those in attendance including myself felt otherwise. On immigration he said he wanted to secure the border, but that is not what his voting record indicates is his true policy. On issues from abortion to basic economic policy he told those present to look at his record, which, unfortunately for him, they have done.
Then he was asked about his relationship with God. The question was asked in such a manner that it would have allowed a man of faith to preach a message that would have won any atheist in the crowd to Christ. Instead of answering with a personal message of faith, he actually gave the faith testimony of another man. While McCain himself surely thought the answer was a knockout punch for the crowd, it actually left those of faith wondering exactly what his point was.
Rather than talking of his own faith he told of a time while he was a prisoner in
Other than a few conservative Jews, the CNP membership is for the most part evangelicals and conservative Catholics who are also economic conservatives. In other words, the group is overwhelmingly made up of men and women of faith. Some members of CNP such as myself, are the leaders of social conservative organizations. In conversations after the event most agreed that is was impossible to tell from John McCain’s remarks if he indeed had a personal relationship with the Lord. Of course, that does not mean that he does not. It does mean that he has great difficulty in publically acknowledging a relationship with the Lord.
During his remarks John McCain talked about a time when he was campaigning with George W. Bush in 2000, when they were on a bus together and people lined the streets in the rain jumping up and down with enthusiasm. He said, “We have to restore that kind of enthusiasm in our party.” The problem is that he said nothing during the luncheon speech that would generate that kind of enthusiasm amongst conservatives. His presentation consisted of the same canned remarks he made in 2000 that lost him the nomination to George W. Bush. His rhetoric about eliminating earmarks while lowering taxes and keeping
His address to the CNP offered no assurances to social conservatives that would cause them to give his campaign the same enthusiastic support as evangelicals gave Mike Huckabee; and I put myself forth as an example. I personally raised about $70,000 for Mike Huckabee’s campaign. The political action committee I head also made independent expenditures for advertising and direct marketing of over $60,000 on behalf of Mike Huckabee during the primary. I flew to
Can McCain win the activists back and get evangelicals to jump up and down in the rain for him? That is possible, but it will take more than “… look at my record” and “… he drew a cross in the dirt” to convince social conservatives to do more than hold their nose and vote for him in November, knowing Clinton and Obama are worse alternatives. Rather than being enthusiastic for McCain, most activists see him as the lesser of two evils to choose from in November.