GOP's Last Best Hope

Resident Fellow
David Frum
Tuesday was a bad day for supporters of Rudy Giuliani. It wasn't so great for fans of Mitt Romney, either.

The Republican presidential race seems to be returning to the place where it started 18 months ago: with John McCain as the presumptive front-runner--despite his low standing among the Republican party's conservative base.

The conservative wing of the party continues to mistrust and even dislike John McCain.

Mr. McCain owes his success to his winning public persona, his heroic record in Vietnam and to his prescient criticisms of the White House's Iraq strategy. He had warned that the Bush administration had budgeted too few troops for Iraq--and sent them on the wrong mission. The "surge" strategy that is working in Iraq now is the strategy that Mr. McCain has advocated since 2005.

Mr. McCain, the oldest candidate in the race, campaigned harder and more fiercely than the conservative favourite, Fred Thompson. He got to the right of Rudy Giuliani on abortion and guns, while appealing more strongly to independents than Mitt Romney. He offered more national security expertise than Mike Huckabee--even as he proved himself just as quick with a joke. (Mr. McCain had the single best line of the Republican campaign. Poking fun at Hillary Clinton for trying to slip through Congress a $1-million grant to a rock 'n' roll museum in Woodstock, N.Y., the former Vietnam POW quipped: "I didn't make it to Woodstock. I was tied up at the time.")

Yet it's also true that the conservative wing of the party continues to mistrust and even dislike John McCain.

Mr. McCain is the main advocate in the Senate of amnesty for illegal immigrants and a continued high migration flow. He voted against the Bush tax cuts of 2001. His McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill of 2002 appalled conservatives with its blatant government regulation of political speech--and its unintended but foreseeable advantages for Democrats over Republicans.

Perhaps most importantly, Mr. McCain has involved himself in a series of highly personal and publicized battles with fellow Republicans and conservatives.

David Frum is a resident fellow at AEI.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author


  • David Frum is the author of six books, most recently, Comeback: Conservatism That Can Win Again (Doubleday, 2007). While at AEI, he studied recent political, generational, and demographic trends. In 2007, the British newspaper Daily Telegraph named him one of America's fifty most influential conservatives. Mr. Frum is a regular commentator on public radio's Marketplace and a columnist for The Week and Canada's National Post.

What's new on AEI

AEI Election Watch 2014: What will happen and why it matters
image A nation divided by marriage
image Teaching reform
image Socialist party pushing $20 minimum wage defends $13-an-hour job listing
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 20
  • 21
  • 22
  • 23
  • 24
Monday, October 20, 2014 | 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Warfare beneath the waves: The undersea domain in Asia

We welcome you to join us for a panel discussion of the undersea military competition occurring in Asia and what it means for the United States and its allies.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014 | 8:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
AEI Election Watch 2014: What will happen and why it matters

AEI’s Election Watch is back! Please join us for two sessions of the longest-running election program in Washington, DC. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014 | 1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
What now for the Common Core?

We welcome you to join us at AEI for a discussion of what’s next for the Common Core.

Thursday, October 23, 2014 | 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Brazil’s presidential election: Real challenges, real choices

Please join AEI for a discussion examining each candidate’s platform and prospects for victory and the impact that a possible shift toward free-market policies in Brazil might have on South America as a whole.

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled today.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.