Senator Tom Coburn introduced McCain. He gave McCain a wonderful introduction [Update – Wizbang Politics has the full text]. One thing he said is that he would not be supporting McCain if he thought he was not a conservative. He also quipped that if McCain wanted to pass blanket amnesty, McCain knows he’d kill it. He also reiterated the judges McCain voted for: Bork, Thomas, Roberts, Alito, and Janice Rogers Brown.
When McCain walked it, the crowd seemed to be enthusiastic (Michelle
Malkin said it was 50/50 cheering and booing, but I couldn’t hear booing.) They cheered and whistled for so long, I thought for a minute there that their goal was to prevent him from speaking. When he did begin, he addressed his absence from last year’s CPAC. He also did the best job he could to explain his votes that conservatives disagreed with. He explained that he took those positions because he truly believed in them on principle but understood completely that conservatives who disagreed with him did so on principle as well and respects that completely.
One thing I noticed was the humility with which he spoke. He said that he knows full well that that he can not win the presidency in November without conservatives.
When he addressed illegal immigration, the crowd booed for a few seconds, but came around and listened to what he had to say. He said that he and the other Republicans who proposed their bill did so because they truly believed it would gain control over such a chaotic situation. He also said they failed and understood why they failed. The American people want the borders controlled first, and he will do so. He also said that he does not give promises that he does not intent to keep and joked that Senator Coburn will make sure of that.
From that point on, he discussed all the issues on which he and conservatives agree, and as he passionately argued for those ideas, fighting for the unborn, the keeping taxes low, decreasing the size of government, fighting earmarks, etc. The more he went on, the more enthusiastic the crowd became, which was encouraging. It was a very good speech, one of the best ones I have ever seen him give.
Mary Katharine Ham is at CPAC and offers her observations:
The passage about being deprived of liberty and fighting for liberty as a result was very good. Not overdone with the POW references, but poignant and respectful, honoring the fact that.
The end was very strong, about being his nation’s “imperfect servant,” and having made many mistakes that “you can attest to, but need not.” Ha. Such is the magic of McCain that his transgressions are often too obvious to dance around, so he goes ahead and addresses them outright, as he did with his conspicuous absences from CPAC and various disagreements with the base.
The only part that didn’t ring true was that he’s always respected the positions of the base. Respected our ignorant, nativist positions, that is. Ha. Other than that, I enjoyed much of it.
The Corner writes that Saul Anuzis, chairman of Michigan’s Republican Party, has canceled his scheduled response to McCain. I’m interpreting that as Saul must feel comfortable with what he heard.
Update: Captain Ed live blogged the speech and reacted the same way I did:
That was an excellent speech. McCain genuinely reached out to conservatives in a heartfelt manner. I’ll talk more about this on the Heading Right Radio.
Update II: Here’s video of McCain speaking at CPAC addressing illegal immigration:
Update III: Hugh Hewitt thought McCain’s speech was “superb.”
Rick Moran, also at CPAC, offers his thoughts:
All in all, McCain did a fine job. He said what he had to without being overbearing or condescending. He was jovial. His eyes twinkled when he mentioned immigration, almost relishing the clash with his detractors. And he was suitably solemn about his commitment to “conservative principles.”
But besides the fact his appearance made good political theater, I doubt whether McCain made any progress in convincing conservatives that they should get behind his candidacy with enthusiasm. It was pretty much the same case we’ve heard made at the debates. And since those performances didn’t convince the base of his sincerity, this appearance at CPAC didn’t either.
Perhaps if he named a few high profile conservatives as his campaign advisors, that would help the base to rally to his cause. As it stands now, his stature may have been elevated just enough to encourage him to continue to reach out to conservatives and bring them into his campaign for what promises to be a bruising general election race.