Once Again, Mccain Snubs Conservatives

It’s official, Sen. John McCain won’t be at the Conservative Political Action Conference next week. McCain’s people have informed CPAC planners that he can’t make the three-day conference, which will take place about three miles from McCain’s Capitol Hill office.

By skipping CPAC, McCain will have blown off three conservative events already this year. In addition to CPAC, he missed the National Review Institute Conservative Summit and the Heritage Foundation’s Conservative Members Retreat. He’s also turned down an invitation to the Club for Growth’s conference in March. McCain did make a trip to Florida on Monday for the National Religious Broadcasters Convention.

McCain’s snub of conservatives at CPAC is the most noteworthy absence. With seven Republican candidates or potential candidates already on the agenda, McCain is missing an opportunity to court upwards of 5,000 activists who are expected to attend. Rudy Giuliani will also skip CPAC, but given his liberal views on social issues, the CPAC crowd likely isn’t his target audience.

A source close to McCain’s campaign told me the senator felt he could skip CPAC because conservatives are familiar with his credentials. When I told this to American Conservative Union President David Keene, he replied, “They are right in one respect; we are certainly familiar with his record on campaign finance reform, global warming and taxes to make a judgment even in his absence.”

McCain’s people also appear to be taking a page from candidate George W. Bush’s playbook. Bush blew off CPAC as a candidate and has never appeared at the conference during his presidency, dispatching Vice President Cheney instead. Ronald Reagan, on the other hand, frequently appeared at CPAC as both a candidate and during his presidency. (It’s well worth a moment of your time to read his speeches.)

I applaud the seven Republicans who will be there — Sen. Sam Brownback, Jim Gilmore, Newt Gingrich, Rep. Duncan Hunter, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney and Rep. Tom Tancredo — and again voice my frustration with McCain. When he’s getting trounced next year in Republican primaries, he may look back at these wasted opportunities and wish he had made better choices.

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