Now that John McCain has all but wrapped up the Republican presidential nomination, he must reach out to conservatives who don’t trust him. For that very reason, the only thing McCain can do to win them over is to select a true conservative as his running mate.
Choruses of “I-told-you-so” will ring out from every conservative corner of the media if McCain selects one of his Senate running buddies like Lindsay Graham who once referred to those who wish to halt illegal immigration as “bigots.”
Likewise, the idea of selecting Mike Huckabee is a non-starter with conservatives. Conservatives like his “Fair Tax” proposal, but they believe he is a late convert to the concept – and McCain doesn’t support it anyway. Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison has been mentioned, but she falls far short of the conservative bona fides that McCain needs.
Mitt Romney? Conservatives who came to his side rather late in the game might be all right with him. McCain, on the other hand, dislikes him intensely, partly because he’s rich and spent his own money in the primaries.
So who’s out there that might fit the bill?
A conservative favorite is Newt Gingrich who flirted with the primaries before opting to stay in the role of the GOP’s number one idea man. Newt is usually the smartest person in a room, but he is universally hated by the Left and would energize Democrats in the same manner that Hillary Clinton would do for Republicans.
There are several governors that might make the short list including Texas’ own Rick Perry, Haley Barbour of Mississippi, Mark Sanford of South Carolina and Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota. Pawlenty is plenty conservative and might be the best choice. He likes to talk about America being great because the country is good, free, and strong. But he also speaks about “a few bad apples in Washington [that have] let us down.” If he’s referring to McCain, the deal is off. And Pawlenty supported the Senate stimulus deal that most conservatives think is just another government handout.
A long shot is Louisiana’s Gov. Bobby Jindal. He’s an Indian-American and very conservative, but at 37, he’s barely old enough to be president.
If he mines the Senate, McCain could strike gold. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma is a soul mate on the issue of spending and stopping earmarks. Strangely enough, on April 6, 2006, Coburn and Senator Barack Obama introduced the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006. Not that it’s a bad bill – but McCain has taken flak for having his name on bills with major liberal Democrats. And Sen. Obama isn’t just ANY Democrat.
That brings us to a striking and exciting possibility: Sen. Jim DeMint – the other senator from South Carolina and the man who replaced Sen. Fritz Hollings.
DeMint is what McCain needs – someone who is almost his opposite number within the Republican Party. While McCain’s controversies stem from his liberal tendencies, DeMint’s are related to being “too” conservative. In debates with his opponent, state education superintendent Inez Tenenbaum, DeMint said that openly gay people should not be allowed to teach in public schools – nor should single mothers who live with their boyfriends. DeMint has since cooled the rhetoric, but a lot of conservatives wouldn’t be offended by those positions anyway.
DeMint opposes all forms of abortion. He is against amnesty for illegal aliens and would require them to return home to apply for legal entry. He falls in line with McCain on two major issues: He is a hawk on the war and once stated that a number of casualties can be laid at the feet of all the talk in Congress about cutting and running. And of course, there’s the issue of earmarks where his anti-pork activities are well known.
DeMint is also one of a group of senators that introduced the “Semper Fi Act of 2008” to strip federal funding from Berkeley, California because the city has opposed Marine Corps recruiting. Under the bill, $2.1 million would be taken from Berkeley and diverted to the Marines.
So how about it? McCain-DeMint in 2008? It might be a winning ticket!