- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 12, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

In the wake of John McCain’s Tsunami Tuesday victories and Mitt Romney’s consequent withdrawal from the presidential sweepstakes, a reality has emerged that conservatives must accept: John McCain will be the Republican Party’s nominee.

But for more than a few conservatives, this reality seems too bitter to abide. Some have suggested that they would sooner sit out the general election, or vote for an nonviable third-party candidate, than vote for Arizona’s senior senator. Other key conservatives have threatened to become “suicide voters” and pull the lever for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama in order to send a message to the Republican Party.

As a conservative Republican, I respect those who seek ideological purity from the man who would lead our party. But it is also as a conservative Republican that I respectfully ask conservatives to consider these crucial numbers before they abandon Mr. McCain.

Six — That’s the number of Supreme Court justices who will be 70 years old or older on Inauguration Day 2009. That number includes all five of the court’s left-leaning members. Court watchers predict that the next president will appoint at least two, and as many as five, justices.

Twenty-six — That’s the average tenure in years of Supreme Court justices since 1970. While presidents remain in office for four or eight years, Supreme Court appointees have the opportunity to shape our laws for a generation or more.

We know what sort of justices Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama would appoint. Both voted against John Roberts and Samuel Alito and have spoken admiringly of the court’s most liberal justices. Mr. McCain, on the other hand, voted to confirm both Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito, and he has pledged to nominate “strict constructionist” judges in the mold of the court’s four conservative members. With so many Supreme Court rulings — including those concerning abortion, affirmative action, states’ rights, the Second Amendment and religious freedom — being decided by slim 5-4 margins, the prospect of either Democratic candidate nominating even one justice should be enough to rally conservatives around Mr. McCain.

Fifteen — That’s the percentage of the U.S. population composed of Hispanics, the nation’s fastest-growing minority group, representing nearly half the total population growth in the United States between 2002 and 2006. What’s more, Hispanics constitute a sizable portion of the electorate in four of the six states that President Bush carried by margins of five percentage points or less in 2004 — New Mexico (37 percent Hispanic); Florida (14 percent); Nevada (12 percent); and Colorado (12 percent).

While the Hispanic vote is trending Democratic, Mr. McCain can put it back in play for the Republican Party. Mr. McCain won four-in-five Cuban primary voters in Florida, where he also won a majority of Hispanic voters at large. Some claim that Mr. McCain’s popularity among Hispanics derives from his support for amnesty for illegal immigrants. But Mr. McCain’s Hispanic support remained even after he began insisting that he “got the message” about the need to “secure the borders first.”

$ 64 billion — That’s the number of taxpayer dollars earmarked for congressional pet projects in 2006. Polls show considerable voter disillusionment with both parties over their abuse of earmarks, which have grown by 350 percent since 1994. Mr. McCain has been a stalwart crusader against out-of-control spending and is uniquely positioned to continue his leadership in seeking greater transparency of lobbying activities. At the recent Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, Mr. McCain reiterated his commitment to ethics reform by pledging not to “sign a bill with earmarks in it, with any earmarks in it.”

Eighty — That’s the percentage by which Iraqi and American deaths fell between December 2006, just before Mr. Bush announced the troop surge, and December 2007. In the face of national defeatism, Mr. McCain stood, virtually alone, as an outspoken defender of the surge strategy. Although he knew his position was deeply unpopular, as he once told a reporter, “I’d rather lose the presidency than lose the war.”

Eighty-two — That’s the lifetime American Conservative Union rating John McCain has compiled in 25 years in Congress, a score comparable to those of numerous other Senate conservatives, including Sens. Charles Grassley, Lamar Alexander, Bob Bennett and former Sen. Rick Santorum. Meanwhile, Mr. McCain has a 4 percent lifetime rating from the National Abortion Rights Action League, voting pro-life 123 times out of 128.

Adding up these numbers helps explain why so many conservative leaders — including Sam Brownback, Tom Coburn, Phil Gramm, Jon Kyl, Haley Barbour, Jack Kemp, Tim Pawlenty and Ted Olsen — have endorsed Mr. McCain.

I’ve done the math, and that is why I have decided to join these and many other conservatives in endorsing John McCain for president in 2008.

Former presidential candidate Gary Bauer is chairman of the Campaign for Working Families.


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