Now the conservatives are coming up with stupid nicknames for THEIR OWN CANDIDATES!

And if Ken Blackwell gets his way, he’s going to drag the GOP down nationally just like he did in Ohio last year.

Keep up the good work Ken!

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‘Rudy McRomney’ fails to inspire true believers
Republican candidates sell themselves at a conservative conference, but find few buyers.
By BILL ADAIR
Published March 3, 2007

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WASHINGTON – The exhibit hall at the Omni Shoreham Hotel was bustling Friday as the conventioneers bought conservative books, buttons and decks of playing cards with the 52 Most Dangerous Liberals. Hillary Clinton is the ace of spades.

But the buyers, who were attending the Conservative Political Action Conference, were a little glum. They’re still sore that Republicans took a beating in the November election and many of them aren’t inspired by the Republican candidates for president.

“There are no true conservatives in the race,” groused Gregg Jackson, who was peddling autographed copies of his book Conservative Comebacks to Liberal Lies.

Jackson ticked off his complaints about each candidate: Sen. John McCain passed a campaign finance bill that restricted free speech; former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani supports abortion rights; and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has flip-flopped on abortion and gay rights.

Jackson’s complaints were echoed by many others at the conference and beyond.

“I don’t think there’s much hope for conservatives in the Republican Party,” said Jim Quinn, a retired police officer from Sodus Point, N.Y. To illustrate his complaint, he wore a sticker that showed a circle and a red slash over “Rudy McRomney,” a shorthand way to express his disdain for all three top-tier candidates.

Seeking inspiration

It has been years since conservatives were this divided on their presidential candidate. Many were early supporters of George W. Bush in 2000 and enthusiastically backed his re-election in 2004. But now, the conservatives – especially those who emphasize social issues such as abortion and gay rights – are yearning for someone who can inspire them.

Many of the 6,300 people at the conference said they want a “Ronald Reagan conservative,” someone who would cut taxes, take a strong stand against abortion and make government smaller. Indeed, one booth in the exhibit hall was giving away bumper stickers that said “WWRD?” – What would Reagan do?

But many activists don’t see any Reagans in the bunch.

“Of the front-runners, I don’t think any of them are ringing a bell for social conservatives across the board,” Carrie Gordon Earll, a spokeswoman for the conservative group Focus on the Family, said in a telephone interview.

But “bear in mind in 1999, very few people had heard of George W. Bush from Texas. I think it’s still early in this campaign. There’s still time to see where these candidates are going to go,” she said.

Things to dislike

McCain’s voting record should satisfy this group – he has even said he wants to overturn Roe vs. Wade – but many conservatives are wary of him. They’re not only unhappy about his campaign finance law, they are still bitter about his attacks on Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson in 2000.

“He’s always been a rebel,” said Virginia Langen, a retired office manager from Diamondhead, Miss. “I want something steadier.”

Romney has the backing of many economic conservatives, but his shifting positions on abortion and gay rights have alienated many social conservatives.

“He’s a flip-flopper,” said H.W. “Budd” Schroeder, a retired park supervisor from Lancaster, N.Y. “Those people are dangerous.”

Indeed, a man in a dolphin suit strolled around the conference wearing a T-shirt that said “Flip Romney – Another Flip-Flopper from Massachusetts.”

Another challenge for Romney is that he is Mormon, which could make some Christian conservatives uncomfortable. “Some polls say there’s a significant number of Americans who say they wouldn’t vote for a Mormon,” said John C. Green, a senior follow at the Pew Forum on Religion and American Life in Washington.

Giuliani gets high marks for his performance after Sept. 11, but his three marriages and his support of abortion rights and gay rights upsets many social conservatives.

Likewise, Newt Gingrich, a possible candidate, has raised eyebrows among some conservatives because he has been married three times.

“Harry Truman once said, ‘I would never knowingly hire a man to work for me who cheated on his wife,’ ” said Richard Land, who heads a commission on ethics and religious liberty for the 16.4-million strong Southern Baptists. “His reasoning was thus: If a man will break his oath of marriage, he’ll break his oath of office. … I would say you could draw the same conclusion that someone who’s in his third marriage would not fit that standard of integrity and character, be it Giuliani or Gingrich.”

Other Republican candidates, both announced and just testing the water, have mixed appeal.

Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas is a leader of the antiabortion movement but gets criticized for supporting a guest worker program and not supporting Bush’s troop surge.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has a record that pleases social conservatives – he’s a Southern Baptist preacher, after all – but worries economic conservatives because he has supported tax increases.

House members Tom Tancredo and Duncan Hunter have conservative records, but don’t have the money or visibility to launch much of a campaign. Former Govs. Jim Gilmore (Virginia) and Tommy Thompson (Wisconsin) also haven’t sparked much enthusiasm.

Many conservatives have urged Gingrich, a former House speaker, to run, but he has said he won’t decide until late summer.

‘My 80 percent ally’

On Friday, Giuliani, Romney, Brownback, Tancredo and Huckabee spoke to large crowds at the conservative conference and tried to stoke some enthusiasm.

Romney praised “God-fearing, freedom-loving American people” and emphasized conservative issues such as the war on terror, immigration, big government and tax cuts.

Giuliani mentioned Reagan 15 times and cited the former president’s words to remind the conservatives they won’t find a perfect candidate.

“Ronald Reagan used to say, ‘My 80 percent ally is not my 20 percent enemy,’ ” Giuliani said. “What he meant by that is that we all don’t see eye to eye on everything. You and I have a lot of common beliefs that are the same, and we have some that are different.”

After the speech, many conventioneers said they were impressed by Giuliani. But they were still unsure.

“I was really disappointed that he didn’t address more of the future rather than the past,” said Ann Hodges, a retired journalist from Houston.

Many conservatives are still searching.

Dan Castella, an executive with a communications company, said he liked Huckabee’s speech but then asked, “Is Newt Gingrich running?”

Washington bureau chief Bill Adair can be reached at adair@sptimes.com or (202) 463-0575. Staff writer Sherri Day can be reached at sday@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3405.

 

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