President Bush has admonished those attending a meeting of Conservative Political Action Committees that conservatives should support the Republican Party’s nominee, an apparent signal by the GOP establishment that those in the “big tent” should support Sen. John McCain as the presumptive winner of the party’s presidential nomination.
Those not getting, or accepting, the message included a large portion of the conservative base of the party, and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who told those attending the conference he has no plans to quit.
In the week before CPAC, top Washington power broker and lobbyist Charlie Black, also a paid McCain senior adviser, began a behind the scenes effort to convince conservatives and the media that McCain had the Republican Party nomination locked up mathematically.
On Feb. 6, John Martin at Politico.com discussed a memo penned by Black for McCain’s campaign leadership team that was leaked to Politico, along with Black’s assessment of the delegate account.
Martin reported that, according to Black’s written assessment in the leadership memo, Romney would have to win more than 50 percent of the remaining delegates to match McCain’s total.
The same day, MSNBC reported Black told reporters, “It takes 1,191 delegates to clinch the nomination. There are 963 left to be chosen, so Romney or Huckabee would have to have all of them – all of them to get to 1,191.”
MSNBC further quoted Black as saying, “It’s virtually impossible for Romney or Huckabee to be the nominee just based on the arithmetic.”
At the time of Black’s analysis, McCain held 775 delegates.
Black’s analysis focusing on the numbers was echoed back to WND in comments made for publication by top conservatives attending CPAC, strongly suggesting Republican insiders were involved in orchestrating a behind-the-scenes campaign aimed at getting the still-competing Huckabee to drop out. Romney announced the suspension of his campaign during an appearance at CPAC.
Morton Blackwell, president of the influential conservative Leadership Institute, told WND after hearing Romney’s speech, “After Super Tuesday, it was clear to me McCain was the prohibitive favorite mathematically to win the Republican Party nomination.”
In almost identical language David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, a co-sponsor of CPAC, told WND he concluded McCain would win the nomination.
As WND previously reported, Keane told WND after hearing Romney’s speech he understood the candidate’s calculations as he faced an uphill battle to get the required number of delegates.
“Romney’s problem as a candidate is not the same as our problem as conservatives,” Keene said. “If McCain is the nominee, we as conservatives have to decide what we’re going to do, if we’re going to support him or not.”
Black apparently has ready an answer for Keene’s concern.
The Washington Post reported on Jan. 14 Black’s assertion, “In three or four weeks, everybody will be for McCain.”
At CPAC, McCain was greeted with “boos” as he stepped on the stage.
In his speech, when McCain mentioned the topic of immigration, another round of boos and catcalls interrupted the speech for several minutes.
McCain supporters, who appeared to be at the meeting only to support McCain by waiving McCain posters and cheering his speech, tried to drown out CPAC critics by waving their signs and chanting “McCain, McCain” in unison.
On “Fox News Sunday,” President Bush told Chris Wallace that McCain is a “true conservative,” boasting that McCain is strong on national defense and taxes, tough fiscally, and pro-life.
Over the weekend, the HuffingtonPost.com reported Karl Rove had contributed to McCain $2,300, the maximum amount an individual is permitted to contribute under Federal Election Commission rules.
After McCain’s loss to Bush in the 2000 South Carolina primary, McCain was openly critical of the harsh campaign tactics used by Rove to engineer a Bush victory.
Judging by Bush’s comments over the weekend and Rove’s campaign contributions, those bruises appear to have healed on all sides, as Republican insiders appear to have launched a major campaign to pull the conservatives into the McCain camp.
One conservative who is resisting is conservative icon Paul Weyrich.
In a press statement released from his office yesterday, Weyrich announced, “Gov. Huckabee is clearly the conservative alternative. He is the best choice, and he is my choice. So I am voting for him on Tuesday, here in Virginia.”
“I don’t buy the idea that John McCain is a true conservative,” Weyrich said, “nor do I buy the idea that Mike Huckabee should get out of this contest.”
Weyrich expressed the disappointment many conservatives at CPAC felt when Romney made his surprise decision to pull out.
“I had been a supporter of Mitt Romney,” he wrote, “but now I am very glad that Gov. Huckabee has decided to stay in the race.”
Weyrich expressed his enthusiasm for a continuing strong debate between McCain and Huckabee.
“Gov. Huckabee has articulated some very clear differences with Sen. McCain: on immigration, on McCain-Feingold, and also on the McCain-Lieberman global warming scheme,” Weyrich continued.
“Yes, Sen. McCain says that he has a right to life record, but he can’t be supportive of embryonic stem cell research and have a clear right to life record, because right to lifers, including me, want to protect all life, from conception to natural death,” he stressed.
“Gov. Huckabee is also good on marriage, insisting that it be limited to one man and one woman,” Weyrich noted. “Unfortunately, Sen. McCain refused to vote for the marriage amendment.”
Weyrich encouraged conservatives to vote for Huckabee, arguing the vote would send a strong message to the Republican Party establishment the GOP will not be able to win the general election in November unless they accommodate the heartfelt beliefs of conservatives.
Weyrich was an active supporter of Barry Goldwater in 1960 and he was a delegate for Ronald Reagan in 1976 and 1980.
“I remind all the Washington DC-oriented political strategists that outside-the-beltway conservatives don’t have to vote for every candidate if they don’t want to,” Weyrich argued. “They can stay home, or they can skip over some candidates.”
“I call upon all fellow conservatives to get out and support Gov. Huckabee,” he said. “A big vote for Huckabee is the best way to send a message to Sen. McCain and the Republican Establishment that this is an election, not a coronation.”
Black’s lobbying firm of Black Kelly Scruggs & Healy boasts “strong working relationships with the decision makers and opinion leaders in Washington – from Congress to the White House, from the State Department to the Pentagon, from national associations to the National Press Club.”
Black himself has been a major player in every Republican presidential campaign since 1976, typically playing a behind-the-scenes role.
Media wishing to interview the author of this article, please e-mail Tim Bueler.