February 4th, 2008
02:00 PM ET
15 years ago

In letter to Limbaugh, Bob Dole defends McCain

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/02/04/art.dole.gi.jpg caption="Dole is defending McCain's conservative credentials."]BOSTON (CNN) - Former Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole on Monday wrote conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh defending John McCain as a "mainstream conservative" who had supported the party on critical votes during Dole's time as the Senate Republican leader.

The letter, obtained by CNN from a Republican source close to Dole, includes a voting comparison that suggests McCain's voting record compares favorably to that of the longtime conservative icon Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina.

Dole in the letter said he remains neutral in the GOP contest and spoke kindly of all three remaining leading GOP candidates. But the letter comes at a time Limbaugh is trying to rally grassroots conservative support against McCain.

"Whoever wins the Republican nomination will need your enthusiastic support," Dole wrote in the letter. "Two terms for the Clintons are enough."

–CNN Chief National Correspondent John King

(full text of the letter follows after the jump)


I have not seen you in a long time but I do hear you frequently and I know that you have serious reservations about Senator McCain.

Not that many care but I have not been involved in the Republican Primary contest because Elizabeth, a good conservative, is running for reelection in North Carolina where Romney, McCain and Huckabee each enjoy considerable support.

I was the Republican Leader from January 1985 until I left the Senate voluntarily in June 1996. I worked closely with Senator McCain when he came to the Senate in 1987 until I departed. I cannot recall a single instance when he did not support the Party on critical votes. (At my age, I cannot be entirely certain but here are a few key conservative examples:)

1. Consistent pro-life record
2. Strong advocate for strict constructionist judges (We were misled on the Souter nomination)
3. Supported voluntary school prayer
4. Supported Constitutional Amendment for a Balanced Budget (needed two-thirds and lost by one vote - 66-34)
5. Strong advocate for reducing spending and opposing pork barrel "ear marks" which has, I might add, angered some of his colleagues
6. Consistent on defending Second Amendment rights
7. Opposed "Hillary Care" which would have been devastating
8. Probably the Senate's strongest advocate for strong national defense
9. Of course he has cast many votes since I left. I totally disagreed with the McCain-Feingold legislation. On immigration, Senator McCain was not in the Senate when Congress passed President Reagan's immigration legislation which passed overwhelmingly. It granted amnesty to 2.7 million illegals. It was not much different than the 2007 McCain, Kennedy, Bush effort.

I disagree with his votes against the Bush tax cuts but I believe his pledge to make them permanent and I do not agree that Governor Romney ever suggested a timetable for troop withdrawals in Iraq.

McCain is a friend and I proudly wore his P.O.W. bracelet bearing his name while he was still a guest at the "Hanoi Hilton." I believe our major candidates are mainstream conservatives and that our nominee will address our concerns by keeping taxes low, reducing corporate taxes, protecting and assisting the vulnerable, strengthening our traditional values, and above all, keeping America strong militarily, whatever the cost.

Whoever wins the Republican nomination will need your enthusiastic support. Two terms for the Clintons are enough.

Gob Bless America,


P.S. Rush, I just came across a document from the Senate Library which shows Presidential Support scores. Let me give you ratings for "Mr. Conservative" Senator Helms through 2002 (Helms retired in January 2003) and Senator McCain through 2004.

Filed under: John McCain
soundoff (196 Responses)
  1. Gil - California

    Oh let me guess, Rush is really a Hillary supporter too?

    Rush, go take your meds

    February 4, 2008 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  2. Randy - Denver

    Oh no now the republicans see what happen if they don't follow ol' ditto head!..LOL bitter pill but hey folks take it is good for oyu.. and your stools????

    February 4, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  3. TJS

    Rush has to back Romney he is his boss! Duh. Who really cares anyway.

    February 4, 2008 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  4. andy

    aj – and what if Obama wins the nomination? Then McCain won't have as much of a following.

    February 4, 2008 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  5. Lev Klinemann, CA

    You have made your bed, now lay in it.
    Good ridance.

    February 4, 2008 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  6. NC Mom

    Rush is right on McCain. Why? McCain is about as far left as you can go for the Republican party. He even almost left the party in 2001. Everyone needs to do some research on this man and get the facts. You hate Rush now, but wait until the "other" info. comes out. We needs someone that will stand up and go after major issues in our country: illegal immigration, outrageous spending, corrupt government, and gettting our economy back on track. McCain is only good for part of this. Do your homework!

    Romney in '08

    February 4, 2008 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  7. Sam




    February 4, 2008 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  8. RTG, Clearwater, FL

    On Bill Bennett's (not Bill, but, I can't remember who it was) show this am someone made the point that McCain has had 2 political personalities; one Before 2000 and one After 2000.

    B2(what Dole is citing for the most part), McCain did vote down the party line with Conservatives.

    A2 McCain has come up with McCain-Kennedy, Feingold, Lieberman, believes Global warming without hearing the other side, is pandering to folks saying we shouldn't explore possible oil reserves, and has no idea how our free-market system works.

    Sorry, Dole. A letter from you citing McCain's B2 voting record and his POW experience from over 30 years ago only goes so far.

    It's a what have you done for us lately world and McCain ain't done nuthin' but act like childish and the exact opposite of a Conservative

    February 4, 2008 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  9. brian

    While I didn't and wouldn't vote for Mr Dole because we are opposed on too many things – I do respect him. He is intelligent, thoughtful and one of the rare politicians who actually seems to believe what he says more often than not. We can always tell when someone means something and when they are saying what they think they have too. And he got that.

    February 4, 2008 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  10. ED

    Wasn't jesse Helms another old coot who couldn't tell his butt from a whole inthe ground. BIRDS of a FEATHER FLOCK TOGETHER . So much for Mccain, Helms and Dole . Fact is guys li you are over the hill and the only reason you stick together is because you continue to mumble at one another and only understand old folks jibberish.Hey guys check your fly it may be open.

    February 4, 2008 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  11. Jon from Florida

    Doles scolds Limbaugh and he needs it...Rush needs a big enema! He labels Mike Huckabee as a Liberal, rips him apart as a Liberal and then proceeds to call on Mike Huckabee to drop out of the race because this "LIBERAL" is Stealing "Conservative" votes away from romney. RUSH, how can a Liberal steal votes from a conservative, unless Huckabee is really not a Liberal. Rush stated he would never again "carry the water" for the Republican party, but it looks like he is selling out to the Romney machine. Bob Dole is right!

    February 4, 2008 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  12. Sam

    Hispanics.Juan Hernandez, the open-borders chatterbox and former adviser to Vicente Fox, has turned up in McCain’s campaign. Check it out.

    February 4, 2008 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  13. Brad, Stockton, CA

    Who cares what Bob Dole thinks? He is even older than McCain!

    February 4, 2008 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  14. Bill

    Longtime Rush listener here....Now, former Rush listener. Rush is quick to drum up any skeleton he can find in McCain's closet. He is conducting almost an unmerciful attack on McCain. I'm curious where Rush was when John McCain was serving our country in a concentration camp in Hanoi?? John McCain truly loves his country, Rush is more concerned with ratings on his radio show and how much money that equates to for him.

    How quick Rush is to forget how he illegally obtained powerful painkilling drugs like Hydrocodone when he arranged for many different doctors to prescribe them. For anybody else but Rush, that is considered a felony. I also had back trouble and subsequent surgery and I had to tough it out with just the medication one doctor gave me, not a bunch of them prescribing meds.

    The nice thing about being a citizen and living in the US is we are pretty much free to live our lives without oppression. What that means to me is to register my dollar vote by turning off IEB network. I hope the rest of you Rush listeners see the light and tune him off too........

    February 4, 2008 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  15. Casey

    I'm a Hillary/Obama 08 supporter. Some would say dreamer, but that's okay. However, I could actually vote for Ron Paul. Unfortunately, Republicans aren't that smart so I don't have to worry about that scenario.

    Republicans – get ready for a Democrat in office for the next 16 years!

    February 4, 2008 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  16. BlackHouse

    What can an old friend do 🙂
    Tight them both together, they still can not fight our OB. Those old polititians can not change the history of United States of America. OB will change the color of White House, for ever and ever!

    February 4, 2008 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  17. Bil TGH, Streamwood, IL

    Bob Dole is the only person I know of who could make Richard Nixon look like a bi-partisan politician.

    Let's ignore this blast from the past.

    February 4, 2008 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  18. Voo Doo McCain

    McCain vote against a bill to say Marriage is one man and one woman

    YOu have to question his judgement


    February 4, 2008 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  19. Cincinnati Conservative

    Rush is an entertainer just as Jerry Springer is. Rush is on the far far far right and Springer is on the far far far Left. They're both clowns and anybody that believes what they do or say is anything more than entertainment is a clown too. I agree with that George guy (Take another Pain Pill Rush) McCain will be the Republican Nominee and Romney will still be a flip flopper.

    February 4, 2008 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  20. Michelle N Louisiana


    February 4, 2008 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  21. Cathy C

    Rush, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Michael Savage and the others... are the reason for all of the divisivness that has been with this country for the past 16 years. The hatred they spew on a daily basis has been destroying our country and will continue to destroy it. They got their start by trying their best to destroy Bill Clinton. During the entire Bush years they spewed hatred of all Democrats and people not like them. Now they are spewing the same hatred on John McCain. I'm curious as to who they see is the "one" since all they seem to do is complain about everyone else. Maybe Rush should run for president since he sees himself on loan from God.

    February 4, 2008 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  22. SecondSage

    This is good,

    I'm an independent but Mitt Romney is the True Republican in this race. I think the GOP should rally around him. My favorite Republican is RON PAUL!!!!

    I had to choose between Obama and Paul, I took an unbiased survey of which candidate most fits my views. Out of 10 I got 6 for all three democrats. 4 for Paul only 2 for McCain and 1 for Huck and Romney.

    As much as I respect Romney, he won't have my support but I still feel the Reps should rally him tomorrow. McCain and Clinton are in the same bag – a boring election.

    Obama '08

    February 4, 2008 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  23. jyfranca

    I love Doles i wish Liz could run she would make great president.I love Bob too.

    February 4, 2008 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  24. Doc Savage

    Hello, wake up silly Rush listeners! Rush has a product to sell – his show. He does this by coming up with audacious comments and creating controversy. How many listeners don't realize that Rush is patronizing them and laughing behind their backs all the way to the bank? --

    John McCain's views are about as close to Ronald Reagan's as anyone you will find these days. Just look at it rationally, don't let a comedian like Rush get you all pissed off with his routine.

    February 4, 2008 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  25. Jeff in Tennesee

    I was an listener of Rush but he has lost it. John McCain is a great leader and will be a great presidential nominee. Look at his friends.... Phil Gramm..... Lindsey Graham..... Fred Thompson....... too many to name... Get over it .... the McCain train is leaving the station Rush.... everyone vote for Mac so we do not have to hear the big blowhole bellyache about Clinton or Obama for 4 years..

    February 4, 2008 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
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