The feeling of dejection Jim Antle noted earlier is no longer necessary. His speech was phenomenal. Not because I like McCain, but because the majority of people with whom I spoke following the speech, who had initial concerns about McCain, were convinced to support him.
"If he keeps his word, then I would definitely support him. But regardless, he would definitely be better than Obama or Clinton," said one conference attendee.
The room was stuffed full of McCain campaign supporters armed with signs and healthy vocal cords. Any boos (and there were a few) were crowded out by their cheering. It was difficult to gauge the ardent supporters vs. the newly converted, but the booing did seem to die down as the speech went on.
Most surprising were the introductions: George Allen, followed by Tom Coburn. Allen, whose chances at a vice presidential bid are mired in concern for more accusations of racism, was a charismatic beginner, and most of the conservatives in the room recognized him as one of their own (rather than the has-been he seems to be in the mainstream).
Coburn, on the other hand, offered the most compelling arguments: Conservatives must look at the larger picture and see what would happen should a Democrat come into office. The Republican Party hasn't had a consistent conservative political agenda since 1995. And that Coburn wouldn't support McCain if he weren't an advocate of conservative, pro-life justices (in a sly answer to the Novak/Fund stories about McCain's alleged hesitation on Alito).
McCain's speech was self-effacing, too. He didn't attempt to play down differences. He spoke with refreshing candor.
The question is whether McCain's nuance of having a conservative record but having differences with the party will result in greater support. Will red meat Republicans buy it for fear of a Clinton presidency? Will he be supported on his own merits, and overcome the resistant attitude of many still floating in the conference?
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