Former Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III will become the first Republican presidential contender to say publicly that the three top-ranked party candidates are phony conservatives.
Unlike the Democratic competition for the presidential nomination next year, where supporters of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois already are trading snide remarks and negative innuendos, Republicans have been observing their 11th Commandment about not speaking ill of one another.
However, Mr. Gilmore singles out former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and Sen. John McCain of Arizona in an ad that will be posted tomorrow on YouTube.com and his campaign Web site (www.gilmoreforpresident.com) as well as e-mailed to likely voters in the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses.
“The three leading challengers for our party’s nomination may be good men, but they simply do not share our conservative values,” Mr. Gilmore says in the ad.
Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Romney and a host of second-tier Republican presidential candidates will deliver speeches today at the 34th annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington. Mr. McCain is the only Republican hopeful not to accept an invitation to address the conference.
Regular CPAC attendees spoke yesterday of a “malaise.”
“It’s a sense, a feeling that none of the top candidates really excite conservatives this year,” Illinois publisher Jameson Campaigne said.
Paul Erickson, a South Dakota-based real estate developer, said Mr. McCain peaked months ago and that the real race will be between Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Romney.
“We’ll know who the front-runner is by the way these grass-roots activists at CPAC react to these two men,” said Mr. Erickson, who managed Patrick J. Buchanan’s first presidential campaign in 1992.
“The public-opinion polls mean nothing — it’s the 40,000 activists in the first caucus and primary states that determine who [has] the momentum — and money going into Feb. 5 of next year, when so many big states will have their primaries,” he said.
In his video, Mr. Gilmore lays out what he regards as the shortcomings of what the press often describes as the top three contenders on the Republican side, although former House Speaker Newt Gingrich ranks ahead of Mr. Romney in most polls.
“John McCain has fought conservatives time after time, even invoking the rhetoric of class warfare to oppose the Bush tax cuts,” he says in the ad.
“Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney both repeatedly opposed core conservative values to win elections in New York and Massachusetts,” says Mr. Gilmore, who was nominated by President Bush to be the Republican National Committee chairman after the 2000 elections.
“It’s for these reasons that I intend to pursue our party’s nomination for president [and] I will represent the Republican wing of the Republican Party,” says Mr. Gilmore, considered a philosophical conservative who believes in limited government, individual liberties and non-intervention abroad except when directly threatened.
He, along with Mr. Gingrich, is scheduled to address the CPAC audience tomorrow.