Sen. John McCain is not ideologically pure enough for many conservative Republicans. But he may be the candidate they need in November.
McCain has alienated his party's conservative base with stands on issues such as immigration, torture of suspected terrorists and campaign financing. In each case, he not only supported stances that were unpopular with many Republicans but also played a leading role in promoting policies that were opposed by fellow GOP lawmakers.
But while some regard McCain's maverick stands as traitorous, others see them as evidence of an inquisitive mind, a willingness to stand on principle, a desire to find consensus amid contentiousness and a compelling need to put his country's interests ahead of partisan concerns.
Count us among the latter group who admires McCain's independent spirit. That is one of the chief reasons we endorse him in Saturday's GOP primary.
Other candidates in the race fall short for one reason or another. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney seems constantly to be reinventing himself to suit the mood of the electorate he is wooing. Former Sen. Fred Thompson, though suitably conservative for many voters, seems to lack the drive needed to win the nomination. Rep. Ron Paul surely was more comfortable running as the standard-bearer for the Libertarian ticket in 1988 than he is as a Republican presidential candidate.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, once considered the front-runner, may have gambled and lost by ignoring the opening small-state contests. Giuliani's one-note refrain of "9-11" limits the appeal of his candidacy.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee brings a refreshing and distinctive voice to the campaign. His populist appeal to voters may mark the beginning of a new conservative coalition. But some of the planks in Huckabee's platform, particularly his ill-advised "Fair Tax" plan, which replaces all federal taxes with a broad national sales tax, and his lack of foreign policy expertise are serious drawbacks.
McCain, though he occasionally bucks the party line, is reliably conservative on most issues. He has been a supporter of the Iraq War from the start, although he has taken issue with how it was prosecuted. He also was an enthusiastic supporter of the recent troop surge and has committed to remaining in Iraq for as long as necessary to establish a secure government there.
McCain is a fiscal conservative who wants to end federal earmarks and control spending. Although he took heat for initially opposing the Bush tax cuts, he now favors extending them.
He believes that global warming is a real threat and supports a cap-and-trade policy to encourage corporations to reduce carbon emissions. He also calls for more nuclear power plants and expanded development of alternative energy, but opposes federal subsidies for either.
In regard to health care, he opposes a mandatory, government-administered system. Instead, he calls for tax credits and expanded health savings accounts to make health insurance more affordable for all.
But we support McCain not simply because of a laundry list of his stances but because of his consistency of values. As a certified war hero and a veteran of 25 years in Congress, he has little to prove to himself or voters. You take him as he is, or you don't.
This was evident in how he has conducted his campaign. Though severely short of money and taken for finished in the summer, he stayed on track and maintained his fabled "straight talk" -- and emerged as winner of the New Hampshire primary with a reinvigorated candidacy.
If McCain is his party's nominee, he would have the ability to attract not only conservatives but also moderates and independents. As president, we are confident he would be willing to cross the aisle to work with Democrats to get things accomplished.
In this diverse field of GOP candidates, McCain stands out as the one best suited to sit in the White House and lead the nation in these challenging times.
Sen. John McCain has shown a willingness to stand on principle and seek consensus.