Monday, March 10, 2008

McCain Makes His Pitch to Conservatives

by William J. Murray
(March 7, 2008 – New Orleans, LA) Shortly after obtaining enough delegates to claim the 2008 Republican nomination for the presidency, John McCain spoke at the luncheon for a premier conservative group, the Council on National Policy (CNP). He had about 40 minutes to win over both economic and social conservatives who had huge differences with him on policy, as defined by his voting record in the Senate and public pronouncements. Among these is his willingness to interfere with freedom of speech (McCain-Feingold) and also to give amnesty to millions of illegals in the United States. His relationship with the Deity is also questioned by many social conservatives. (Photo above William and Nancy Murray with Senator McCain in 2006)

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 North Viet Nam, when a guard loosened the ropes that bound him during the guard’s shift. The guard then retied the bonds before departing. He said he wondered why the guard had shown him kindness. At Christmas time that year the guard silently drew a cross in the dirt in front of McCain’s cell, smiled and then erased the cross so that other guards would not see it. The message ended at that point, with no statement as to how this affected him personally or in his relationship with the Lord. This left the listeners, all with a sort of “and then” look on their faces, waiting for a conclusion that just never came. The McCain campaign had actually made a Christmas commercial using the same theme in December of 2007.

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 America strong is the solid 1980’s and 1990’s rhetoric that kept the GOP in power. Unfortunately for John McCain, it is no longer the 20th century and there are new problems facing this nation, such as the transfer of wealth to Islamic nation that has left the dollar at about 60% of the value of the Euro. Debt has become a burdensome part of the federal budget as it has for the average American. Oil was at $106 a barrel the day McCain spoke to the group and he did not mention it as an addressable problem.

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 New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida to help the Huckabee campaigns in those states. I flew to Texas the day I knew Mike would be forced to drop out of the race to stand by his side as did many of his closest supporters. No one dumped Mike Huckabee, not even at the bitter end. None of that kind of support has translated to John McCain and probably will not. After the Huckabee withdrawal, Evangelicals, mad at their leaders for supporting Mormon Mitt Romney and marginal Catholic Rudy Giuliani, packed up their bags and went home rather than to the McCain tent.

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.

(202) 554-2358

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Mike Huckabee Concedes With Honor

Mike Huckabee ConcedesEveryone associated with Mike Huckabee’s campaign for the presidency, regardless of their association, was honored to be a part of the effort. In the twelve months or so that I have been involved to one degree or another I have never met anyone who regretted in anyway working with Mike Huckabee on his campaign. Some college age young people worked full time for more than a year for free, in various states. One attorney left his practice to work full time without pay, and on the night Mike Huckabee conceded he had no regrets.

Over the past year I have met with Governor Huckabee numerous times, including a meeting with him shortly before he conceded on the night of March 4th. At no time did he show resentment or anger toward the other candidates. His positive attitude toward life and his love of God and country was evident to me in all that he did. Everyone that came in contact with Mike Huckabee was immediately struck by the honorable way in which he conducted himself at all times. My only regret is that I could not have dropped all that I was doing to work full time in his campaign.

During the campaign I was part of Team 100, the group of men who had promised to raise $100,000 each for the campaign. I actually fell short, raising just under $70,000. I regret that I was unable to raise twice or four times that amount. Mike Huckabee’s campaign was run with about 30 employees plus volunteers. Compare that to Hillary Clinton, who had hundreds of employees just in New Hampshire. Rudy Giuliani spent more than $40 million and won only one delegate. Mitt Romney spent nearly $90 million officially, for about as many delegates as Mike Huckabee won with about one tenth as much money spent. And Mitt Romney’s total does not include the millions of dollars he directed to third parties such as the Club for Growth to run a smear campaign against Gov. Huckabee.

If Mike Huckabee had won South Carolina he would have won the nomination; there is no doubt about that. He lost because those who should have been the most supportive of him abandoned their core beliefs to seek favor with those they thought would be in power. Most of America’s evangelical leaders supported a rich Mormon over a poor evangelical. They sought out the loud bandwagon leading the parade, instead of sticking with those committed to righteousness. Their support of Romney assured the victory of John McCain. There is now a wide disconnect between evangelical leaders and their grass roots. Most evangelicals in the pews were more interested in righteousness than their leaders were, and voted for Mike Huckabee. That could not have been more evident than in Texas where he received more than half a million votes, for 40%, despite the lack of support from men such as Rev. John Hagee who sold out to John McCain at the last minute to seek favor in a future White House. I have bad news for Rev. Hagee; all he did was to assist the Democrats in winning the White House.

John McCain’s mindset is still somewhere between the Nixon and Reagan administrations. He does not even think in this century. He won because of a bandwagon effect and there is no true enthusiasm for him within the party. As a Washington insider I can attest to the fact that there is a “this is the guy we are stuck with” attitude toward him.

I am writing this in Texas the day after Gov. Huckabee conceded the nomination. There is just no enthusiasm here for McCain either, not even among those who voted for him. In interviews many said they voted for McCain because he was “inevitable.” That is not the kind of support that can win an election in November. Twice as many were showing up at the polls to vote in the Democrat primary as in the Republican primary.

The outlook for November is bleak, unless ….

Unless John McCain looks at a map and realizes that that he needs to win not only the states, but the counties that Mike Huckabee won. Mike Huckabee could help John McCain carry southern states despite the huge black turnout there will be for Barack Obama. One way or another Obama will be on the Democrat ticket, either at the top or as the vice presidential nominee; that is inevitable. If McCain does as Senator Dole before him and picks a relatively unknown congressman as a running mate his fate will be the same as Bob Dole’s.

There is also the matter of temperament. John McCain is known throughout Washington, DC for his volatile temper. Having a more temperate running mate such as Mike Huckabee would help to relieve fears that he would be fast to the trigger in international disputes. Americans are not presently keen to any new armed conflicts. There is also the matter of age. McCain is twenty years older than Huckabee. Many have fears that he will not run again in 2012 at age 76, even if he wins in 2008. A young, strong conservative such as Mike Huckabee in the vice presidency would give people confidence of a continuum.

I see little hope for Republicans in November without Mike Huckabee on the Republican ticket with John McCain unless another running mate with all of Mike’s attributes can be found.

William J. Murray, Chairman

Religious Freedom Coalition

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