Will conservatives vote for John McCain?

Pundits on the right debate whether to vote for the presumptive Republican nominee, and whether his loss would ultimately be better for the party.

Published February 8, 2008 8:12PM (EST)

With Mitt Romney's departure from the Republican presidential race yesterday, it's clear that John McCain is all but his party's nominee. While McCain has had a history of poor relations with some of the more conservative members of the party, some prominent conservatives are quickly accommodating themselves to McCain, and exhorting their ideological allies to do so as well. But others favor self-immolation for the greater good, and are suggesting that conservatives should stay home in November or even vote for the Democratic candidate; their argument is that a short-term Republican loss will mean long-term conservative gains.

In a column Wednesday in the Washington Times, conservative columnist Tony Blankley suggests that he's considering whether it might not be better for the Republican Party's future if conservatives stayed at home this fall instead of voting for McCain. Blankley states that hardcore conservatives gained dominance over the Republican Party in the wake of Barry Goldwater's doomed 1964 presidential bid. They won the future by losing the present, and by refusing to give in to the more moderate members of their party, such as George Romney, Mitt's father. Blankley asks, "If conservatives sit on our hands this November as moderates did 44 years ago, will we marginalize ourselves within the party (as the old Romney moderates did)? Or will we be saving the party for the grand old cause?" While Blankley is not ready just yet to commit to voter suicide, apparently some other Republicans are.

Ann Coulter fumed about McCain's nomination in a column Thursday, presenting the upcoming election in these stark terms: "If Hillary is elected president, we'll have a four-year disaster, with Republicans ferociously opposing her, followed by Republicans zooming back into power, as we did in 1980 and 1994, and 2000. (I also predict more Oval Office incidents with female interns.) If McCain is elected president, we'll have a four-year disaster, with the Republicans in Congress co-opted by 'our' president, followed by 30 years of Democratic rule."

Rush Limbaugh is also lamenting the McCain nomination. On Wednesday, he responded to a caller to his radio show who said they were considering a write-in vote in November by saying, "That is clearly an option. The write-in is clearly an option. It's clearly permitted. Whether it will be counted is another thing."

However, the Wall Street Journal's Daniel Henninger wants to stop all this talk about Republican political suicide. In an Op-Ed published Thursday, he wrote, "There are reasons, though, why a principled political retreat won't make conservative prospects better. The point of a principled retreat would be to rediscover coherence amid doctrinal confusion. The exact opposite is likely to happen."

Also on Thursday, the New York Post -- which had already endorsed McCain -- exhorted its readers to buck up and support the presumptive nominee. In an editorial, the Post said, "John McCain may never win the presidency of the American Conservative Union -- but he's no Nelson Rockefeller, either. He may be just what is needed to attract the independents needed to keep the Democrats out of the White House -- and the true believers at CPAC would do well to keep that in mind."

By Vincent Rossmeier

Vincent Rossmeier is an editorial assistant at Salon.

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2008 Elections Ann Coulter John Mccain R-ariz. Rush Limbaugh