- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sen. John McCain has been trying to convince conservatives that he was one of them for years. Through heartfelt speeches and earnest declarations, Mr. McCain has described himself as a mainstream conservative, a Reagan conservative, a Goldwater conservative and even a Theodore Roosevelt conservative in a effort to win over skeptics.

Has he become the compleat conservative? Could be.

“I think he is by most standards a conservative. It’s important, quite frankly, for those of us who are conservatives to not so narrowly define conservatism as to have the effect of constantly shrinking ourselves,” said Gary Bauer, the American Values president who also served as a senior adviser to the GOP platform committee.

“On some areas, such as spending and reform on things like earmarks, his conservatism is a darned sight better than a lot of other senators whose conservatives credentials we never question,” Mr. Bauer said.

“On occasion, Senator McCain stakes out a position that irritates the right. But he has shown a propensity to change his mind when confronted with additional information - like offshore drilling. I would urge fellow conservatives to be Reaganesque and accentuate the positive,” he added.

“I’d say McCain fits fairly comfortably in the shoes of Ronald Reagan,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.

“He ran this time as a Reagan Republican, a tax cutter. He criticized George Bush’s spending issues, he’s good on school choice, tax-reform issues, free trade and alternative approaches to legal immigration,” Mr. Norquist said.

But the McCain evolutionary progress as a walking, talking, fully realized conservative seems about complete now that the campaign has reached its final stages.

“Ask conservatives how they feel about McCain, compared to the idealized, perfect conservative? That is not the question now. It’s ‘How do they feel when they compare McCain to Obama?’ The vast majority are committed to McCain, unless something completely bizarre happens,” Mr. Norquist added.

Mr. McCain has tried very hard to make his case.

“In disagreement, especially in disagreement, I will seek the counsel of my fellow conservatives. If I am convinced my judgment is in error, I will correct it. And if I stand by my position, even after benefit of your counsel, I hope you will not lose sight of the far more numerous occasions when we are in accord,” Mr. McCain told a CPAC audience in January.

During a town-hall meeting in July, Mr. McCain added another descriptor to his ideological leanings.

“I count myself as a conservative Republican, yet I view it to a large degree in the Theodore Roosevelt mold,” he said.

There may be peace in the valley yet.

The Republican platform, which will be presented to the overall convention population Monday, appears to be a demonstration of party harmony - “conservative leaning” with strong language on abortion but with provisions that are McCain-friendly, particularly climate change and energy independence.

“I want to give him a platform he can run on,” Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said in the aftermath. “I don’t want to stick my finger in his eye.”

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