February 7th, 2008
03:30 PM ET
10 years ago

McCain gets mixed reception at CPAC


McCain spoke before CPAC shortly after Romney announced he was suspending his bid. (Photo Credit: AP)

WASHINGTON (CNN) - John McCain – who took the stage at an annual conservative gathering Thursday as the likely Republican presidential nominee - got a decidedly mixed reception from the assembled activists.

As he took the stage, he was booed by many in the audience hearing him speak at the Conservative Political Action conference - despite, some attendees told CNN, instructions from event organizers to avoid those negative displays.

“Many of you have disagreed strongly with some positions I have taken in recent years. I understand that,” said McCain. “I might not agree with it, but I respect it for the principled position it is.”

Former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney – who exited the race from the same stage just hours earlier - was able to win over many of these conservatives, and rack up several wins this year, by running as an alternative to John McCain.

The Arizona senator may have become the likely GOP nominee without, for the most part, winning majorities of either Republican or conservative voters in any primary contest – but winning over the activists in the audience is still vital to McCain’s presidential bid.

Continued ambivalence about or hostility to his presidential bid from the conservative base would make it difficult for him to win the general election. And those in attendance at CPAC tend to be the Republican footsoldiers who help drive election turnout.

Last year, McCain was the only Republican candidate who did not address the group, and volunteers for Mitt Romney and Sam Brownback dominated. This year, there are dozens of his volunteers on hand, and a sizeable number of few attendees are sporting campaign stickers and carrying McCain signs.

In another effort to reach out to the crowd, McCain came with, and was introduced by, former Virginia Sen. George Allen – a CPAC favorite who won the group’s presidential straw poll two years ago.

He drew catcalls from some on the crowd – forcing him to pause – when he said he would not change his views on immigration. A handful exited the ballroom where he was speaking. But the audience erupted in applause when he said he intended to make the Bush tax cuts permanent.

McCain also pledged to nominate judges “of the character and quality of Justices Roberts and Alito” – continuing a recent campaign theme that is of central importance to many conservatives, and following on recent endorsements from conservative legal luminaries Ted Olson and Manuel Miranda.

“We have had a few disagreements, and none of us will pretend that we won't continue to have a few,” said McCain. “But even in disagreement - especially in disagreement - I will seek the counsel of my fellow conservatives. If I am convinced my judgment is in error, I will correct it.

“And if I stand by my position, even after benefit of your counsel, I hope you will not lose sight of the far more numerous occasions when we are in complete accord.”

McCain’s Republican rival, Mike Huckabee, will be addressing the group in a much lower-profile Saturday slot. The group will also release the results of its 2008 presidential straw poll that day.

- CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand

Related: Watch McCain work to court conservative support

Filed under: John McCain
soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. Esther Novotny

    As a conservative, I will not vote for McCain. He is a traitor to the Republican party. He does not have our conservative values. I was cheated as I did not get to vote for him in the PA primary. All the state primaries should on the same day, the same as the Presidential elections.

    February 7, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  2. Dr. Berry E. Berry

    If Hillary cannot manage the money for her campaign how is she going to manage the economy? She might have to write a check to alleviate the deficit. Now she cannot pay her staff. How will she run the Federal Government?

    Dr. Berry
    (vision is greater than sight)
    Boca Raton, FL

    February 7, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  3. The ROCK

    What is going on? McCain got booed by his own people at the CPAC? The Repubs can just gift wrap the presidential nomination for the Dems.

    February 7, 2008 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  4. Bob

    Why doesn't he just come out and say "deficit spending is bad?" Who's going to argue with that?

    February 7, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  5. Mike Glenn

    "....he was booed by many in the audience...."

    Childish. What kind of people do we have in CPAC these days?

    I suppose now they'll take their marbles, go home and sulk. I'd say 'don't let the door hit you in the butt,' but if they and people like them don't get over this crap, and soon, we're all going to have the pleasure of watching the next set of Supreme Court Justices hand-picked by either Obama, or the Clintons.


    February 7, 2008 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  6. 30%er

    read the last paragraph again republicans , and dont forget it as you dicuss who you will vote for. Remember that John McCain knows this too

    February 7, 2008 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  7. Wayne, Greenville TX

    As he took the stage, he was booed by many in the audience hearing him speak at the Conservative Political Action conference — despite, some attendees told CNN, instructions from event organizers to avoid those negative displays.

    So much for conservatives being more mature.....

    February 7, 2008 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  8. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    John McCain the conservatives got it right, you are a fraud.

    February 7, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  9. kevin from alaska

    What a horrible photograph of the man. He looks like Rasputin.

    February 7, 2008 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  10. 30%er

    those in attendence at cpac tend to be the republican foot soldiers that help drive drive election turnout, or in other words without conservative support McCain will not be president

    February 7, 2008 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  11. Quirkydude

    The man is a menace.

    February 7, 2008 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  12. howard

    Mccain is still an amnesty man, he won't change his position, neither will I. Got to start looking for an independent, if not hold my nose and vote for a democrat.

    February 7, 2008 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  13. Jim

    Dear god.... that NECK!

    February 7, 2008 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  14. LeeAnn N. Taylor, San Francisco, Ca

    looks like mccain is having a stroke in that pic. nice going cnn. way to tell the future.

    February 7, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  15. Deen

    "Energetic and dedicated campaign"? What's that? Romney could beat McCain any day in a fair fight. The GOP machine will now reap what it will.

    February 7, 2008 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  16. Roy, Gaithersburg, MD

    McCain's other Republican rival, Ron Paul, already spoke at CPAC this afternoon and by all accounts was roundly applauded at every opportunity, especially when he savaged John McCain for McCain's close ties to Democrats Kennedy, Feingold, and others.

    February 7, 2008 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  17. Robert

    I love the way CNN talked about McCains record. Conservative or Not-so-Conservative. I now proclaim Hillary and Obama a NOTSOCONSERVATIVE!!!

    Gotta laugh at these so called news conglomerates. One of these days they may even start reporting the news

    February 7, 2008 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  18. Mary

    I'll vote for this guy before I vote for Obama. I'm setting aside money to donate to his campain if Hillary dosn't make it.

    February 7, 2008 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  19. Tom

    As a 60 year Registered & voting Republican ( who has never voted for a Democrat at ANY level) , I will NEVER vote for MCain unless he positively swears he will NEVER put Illegal Aliens on any path to citizenship..ever..

    February 7, 2008 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  20. Manny

    With McCain as the GOP nominee for President, it apears that we will have a Democrat in the White House after all.

    February 7, 2008 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  21. Tim Collins Arkansas

    Ron Paul is the only candidate that is left worth voting for. Look up Ron Paul and you decide.

    February 7, 2008 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  22. john

    He snubbed these same conservatives last year. This year he says he needs
    them. The point is...what position will he take later – – if he's elected? The
    answer, knowing McCain's record, is that you dance with the date who brought

    February 7, 2008 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  23. ben

    do we realy want another george bush in office?

    February 7, 2008 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  24. Linda Marana, Arizona

    I am dissapointed that the competition has dwindled, but the main thing for me is we DON'T want the democrats (shudder) to win. That would be the end of America as we know it. McCain still has a lot of conservative views on the issues at hand. Take the nomination of decent value judges, is HUGE. McCain has some redeeming value and if nothing else, He's the lesser of two evils.

    February 7, 2008 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  25. kim portland, oregon

    flippity floppity...what day is it today? oh yes, it's thursday, i'm a conservative today! no really, i swear i am now!!!!

    February 7, 2008 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
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