The recent departure of Fred Thompson as a Republican candidate for president has left a void for conservative voters looking for a "true" conservative to carry the party's banner. With Mike Huckabee's campaign fading fast due in part to shaky finances, how will Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney and John McCain use Thompson's exit to their advantage?
Ironically, it is McCain, in reality the least conservative of the trio, who may be the one who can best pass himself off as the most conservative to many voters in the upcoming primaries. For starters, he can point to Romney's recent conversions to pro-life and pro-heterosexual marriage and say with a straight face that he's been there all along. As for Giuliani, whose liberal positions on those issues are well-known, McCain can make an even more convincing case.
As for national security issues, McCain has been a strong and vocal supporter of the troop surge in Iraq from the beginning; that makes is difficult for either Romney or even Giuliani to out-tough McCain on defense and security. And when it comes to securing our borders, McCain has refreshed his stance in hopes that people will forget his ardent support of the amnesty-lite bill he favored last year. Since neither Romney nor Giuliani is squeaky-clean in this department, McCain's past sins may not hurt him much if at all.
What favors McCain also is that recent polls now show that he's the one most likely to defeat either of the viable Democrat candidates, Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. Presumably, McCain's advantage stems from his "maverick" image and the resulting ability to pull independents and "moderate" Democrats away from the ultra-liberal Clinton and Obama. Whether he will actually pull this off, should he receive his party's nomination, remains to be seen.
Unfortunately for McCain, many true conservatives will see through his attempts to cast himself as one of us, if not now in the primaries then eventually. And sadly, some of us may end up choosing "none of the above" come November if the choices are McCain and either Clinton or Obama.