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February 13, 2008

The McCain Maalox Paradox

Kevin E. Dayhoff

At this point in the Republican 2008 presidential primary campaign Senator John McCain has over three times as many Republican National Convention delegates as former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Most people have resigned themselves to the fact that Senator McCain is the de-facto Republican nominee.

When I appeared on WYPR’s Marc Steiner show to discuss the 2008 presidential campaign, just after the New Hampshire primary, it was still a wide-open race and no one could really forecast what was going to happen.

There were so many unpredictable dynamics in play, especially since the primaries were developing to be less of an exercise in intellectual voting as much as a raw-emotional vote. Some people were looking forward and others are looking backward. Some people were upside down and many uber-conservatives were looking at their navel through a cracked mirror.

Earlier in the campaign, many thought the election was going to turn on national security and the war in Iraq; but as “the surge” continues to be successful, the war in Iraq is quickly being replaced by the economy.

To be certain, immigration, or more specifically, illegal immigration continues to be a hot button issue, driving people to a particular candidate.

For some conservative Republicans, “resigned” is the operative adjective as the inevitability of Senator McCain’s nomination continues to rankle the hard rightwing.

Looking back, “they/we” have not trusted Senator McCain's moderate (liberal) positions on some issues in the past and his willingness to work to (over)reach across the aisle and work with (give-in to) Democrats in Congress. There is concern that if he had a desk in the Oval Office he will repeat those behaviors.

Many conservatives have threatened to sit out the November 2008 presidential election if Senator McCain is the Republican candidate.

Ay, caramba. I take no pleasure in pointing out the fallacy in this illogical approach which is being contemplated by some of my conservative friends.

It is, at this point, a heavy burden from which I wish I could be unyoked, but in the words of conservative political commentator, John Hawkins, who said: “There's nothing conservative or principled about helping a Democrat beat John McCain in November.”

Let’s get serious here. If you were unhappy with the McCain-Feingold campaign financing reform legislation or the recent McCain-Kennedy immigration initiative, just think how happy you will be with a “Hillary Obama” Supreme Court nomination, or either’s healthcare initiative.

Perhaps you, like many, would like to see a reduction in government spending and the size of government. Consider what a “President McCain” has to offer on that front as opposed to a “President Hillary Obama” – who has never seen a problem that could not be solved by increasing taxes, hiking government spending or creating a dozen or so government bureaucracies.

If lower taxes are your issue, you’ll love the “Hillary Obama” tax plan, or any of the other empty populist sound bites spewing from their class warfare approach to solving our nation’s challenges.

No better example exists than right here in Maryland. If you will recall, toward the end of Republican Ellen Sauerbrey’s campaign for Maryland governor in 1994 – the hard rightwing of the Republican Party decided that she was moderating on some core conservative values.

For many, hindsight has determined that it was the hard, uncompromising, and inflexible elements of the rightwing of the Republican Party that put Democrat Parris N. Glendening into the Governor’s Mansion for eight years. You remember the eight years of Governor $pendening, don’t you?

For all those conservatives who sat out the 1994 Maryland gubernatorial contest – you should be proud. Then again – maybe not so much.

Were you’re better off with the “Glendening years” as opposed to what could have been achieved under the leadership of a “Governor Sauerbrey?”

Michael Shear wrote a short piece, “A Parting Gift for Romney,” in The Washington Post blog, “The Trail – A Daily Diary of Campaign 2008.” He noted that at the American Conservative Union annual convention, “C-PAC,” held just last week, former governor, and presidential candidate, Mitt Romney choose that forum to announce that he “was dropping out of the race.”

In recent years, C-PAC has conducted a survey, or “straw poll,” about various issues – which, in the case of this year’s effort, included: “If the election were held today to decide the Republican Nominee for President in 2008, for whom would you vote?”

Seventy-six percent of the votes came after Governor Romney made his announcement and yet, he “still edged out Sen. John McCain, 35 percent to 34 percent.”

In response one sharp commenter said on The Washington Post web site, “How dumb is that? Voting for some guy who isn't running? If America is lucky, the conservatives will vote for Reagan in the next election!”


For presidential historians, it is easily understood that the political dynamics of any given presidential election are unique. In the two elections for George W. Bush, it was the hard right conservative voters who came out in droves and elected him president. That simply is not the lay of the land this fall.

To be certain, the dynamics of the 2008 campaign present its own unique set of circumstances, not the least of which is the ever-growing numbers of middle-of-the-road “Independents,” who may very well elect our next president.

Conservative leaders who are heroically taking a hard line on who has the most conservative principals are not keeping their eye on the big picture, and are myopically willing to see a Democrat in the White House.

As I walked by the television earlier to reach for the Maalox, I overheard someone say, “Going over a cliff with the flags flying is still going over the cliff… There is no future in going down in flames.”

I’ll drink to that. Oh, forget the spoon; Maalox is best consumed when gulped straight from the bottle.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster: E-mail him at:

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