More than 20 social-conservative leaders purchased a full-page ad in an Arizona paper warning Sen. John McCain against picking Mitt Romney as his running mate, calling the former Massachusetts governor a "deal breaker" and an "utterly unacceptable" choice for social conservatives.
The open letter to Mr. McCain, which focuses on Mr. Romney's record on abortion and gay marriage and calls him "unfit to be a 'heartbeat away' " from the presidency, runs in tomorrow's editions of the Prescott Daily Courier. It's dominated by block type words "No Mitt."
The ad is timed to coincide with a McCain rally tomorrow on the courthouse steps in Prescott, Ariz., where Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona announced his 1964 presidential bid.
"For us the bottom line is this," the ad states. "The unvarnished facts of Mitt Romney's record as governor of Massachusetts make him utterly unacceptable as a Vice Presidential running mate. A very large (and growing) number of social conservative voters who have become aware of that record are likely to abandon a GOP presidential ticket on which Romney's name appears."
The ad notes Mr. Romney's "recent 'conversion' to conservative and pro-life principles," but dismisses them as "not credible."
TWT EDITORIAL: McCain tells it like it is
"His actions as governor betray well-timed conversions as mere political opportunism, and offend those who demand 'straight talk' from their leaders," the letter states, referring to the moniker for Mr. McCain's campaign bus and his penchant for bluntness.
In its headlines, the letter tells Mr. McCain: "the base CAN help you win" and "the base WILL stand on principle."
Chuck Yob, a Michigan member of the Republican National Committee and longtime McCain supporter, told The Washington Times at a New Mexico meeting of Republican state chairmen that the ad is a surprise.
"Only John McCain knows who would be the best vice president, and I am confident the party will support his selection," he said.
Many of the chairmen at the Santa Ana Pueblo, N.M., gathering were stunned by the ad. Though they would not speak for the record, several saw it as a blow against Mr. McCain's efforts to unite the Republican Party for November and win over the conservative base.
The 26 signers, acting as individuals, include Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation, J. Matt Barber of Concerned Women for America, Peter LaBarbera of Republicans for Family Values, Sandy Rios of the Culture Campaign, William J. Murray of the Religious Freedom Coalition, and several leaders of Massachusetts and other state chapters of pro-family groups.
The ad is funded by the Government Is Not God PAC. It asks its readers to sign a petition and send a comment to Mr. McCain via the site www.nomittvp.com.
Mr. Weyrich initially endorsed Mr. Romney for the nomination, but expressed deep disappointment when the governor endorsed Mr. McCain for president after the Arizonan had clinched the nomination.