Let me be clear about this: I don’t see John McCain rebounding enough in the presidential race to knock off Romney or Giuliani. He has burned quite enough bridges to make more than a few enemies along the political road. His dogged stubbornness to defend stupid policy like campaign-finance reform and that misguided illegal immigration bill is the main objection conservatives have with him. He is also seen by some as arrogant because of this. Not exactly the perfect Republican messenger.
That’s the case against him. Let me attempt to make the case for him.
McCain is a bona fide fiscal conservative. If we want someone who has always been committed to reducing government spending, John McCain fits that description. When he calls for spending cuts, he has credibility because he’s done it many times and he has fought pork projects every time they pop up in a bill. I think McCain is being overlooked as a small-government guy because of our focus on the more outspoken Ron Paul and Rudy incessantly talking about his NY tax cuts.
McCain is a bona fide social conservative, if by that you mean pro-life. He’s always been pro-life, no conversions, no fudging it, nothing like that. Sure he’s not totally with us on gay marriage, but his overall record in the Senate shows that, as he says, he is a reliable conservative vote on the family issues that count to the social conservatives.
McCain has solid military experience. He served in Vietnam. So did John Kerry (if you hadn’t heard). If that qualification was good enough for Senator Kerry, why wouldn’t it be for John McCain? He can speak with authority on the military and on national security matters, because he knows what needs to be done to keep our military strong and to respond to future threats against our country. If national security and the war on terrorism is the main concern of the base, why would you consider this a strength of Giuliani and leave McCain out of that conversation?
Giuliani isn’t the only one who can claim that he has taken unpopular positions, and never wavered from them. McCain can also make this claim. We may not like some of McCain’s policies and proposals (campaign finance and illegal immigration), but I believe that he’s closer to everything we want in a candidate than Rudy Giuliani is. If we are trying to elevate Huckabee or Thompson, or to a lesser degree Romney, on the basis that they are currently pro-life (and Rudy is not), then we should take a second look at John McCain. He brings the pro-life record, fiscal conservatism, and a solid military background as just a few pieces of his presidential resume, and it’s a resume that we should take a closer look at before rejecting him as a Republican nominee.
As I said, I think the die has already been cast against McCain, but we should give him another look before we settle for Rudy Giuliani.