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. Tom in Florida

    So why don't you print what I have sent??

    February 4, 2008 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  2. Frank

    Too many democrats spout the republican mantra...you know...like Leiberman did before he decided he was an independant. (bad for the independants). Some even vote in lock step with the treasonous idiot in charge at the white house...you know...like Hilliary. Some even tell Bush he can do whatever he wants...legal or not and they will NEVER impeach..you know...like the speaker of the house. Since the democrats can't and/or wont stop the shrub, ( not even a good bush), I no longer will be one of them...so...now I'm an Independant and once we get rid of the turncoat, (used to be a Republican in democrat clothing...Lieberman) Remember the lip lock he gave to Bush), it may turn out to be OK...Hope so anyway.

    February 4, 2008 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  3. mr.fair tax


    February 4, 2008 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  4. Joe

    I think Its high time the religious nut cases leave the party. McCain is conservitive, but he refuses to be led by the nose by Rush and Sean and the Delays of the republican party. The Dems have the Gays and we have the bible thumpers. We all cringe everytime they open their mouths.

    Havent heard much from the gays this time around. Cant wait till we dont hear much from the religious right along with them.

    February 4, 2008 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  5. Dave Harris

    I believe that ole Rush is playing a little game with you ggullible people that listen to this nut. He knows McCain will not will against Hillary or Obama so he figures that McCain will win the nomination. He doesn't want to back a loser again like the 96 election when he was whining about carrying the Republican's water. This way when the Repubs lose he will have clean hands and try to build on the Neo-cons grip of the PArty.

    February 4, 2008 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  6. Jim in E. Tenn

    McCain/Huckabee 08' A Ticket all Republicans should be able to stand with!!!

    February 4, 2008 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  7. America Forever

    This primary is exciting....no real, clear winners.

    Lot's of dirt on the candidates, but still anyone's guess.

    Go Obama for the Dems.
    Go Romney for the Republicans.

    I think they are the best of the two parties. 🙂

    February 4, 2008 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  8. Stephen,Wilmington,NC

    Hey Bob, you've fallen off too many grand stands. Get your head checked. Mitt Romney is the TRUE CONSERVATIVE. !!!!!

    February 4, 2008 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  9. Coby

    McCain is too old. You age in dog years as president. He will physically go from 72 to 79 in one year!

    February 5, 2008 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  10. Jay

    Rush needs to back off – just an opinion from another former listener. Thanks to Bob Dole for speaking up!

    Go Huckabee "08

    February 5, 2008 01:08 am at 1:08 am |
  11. Bob Cirba

    McCain has contempt for conservatives, so much so that he danced with John Kerry for weeks over a prospective VP nomination, then proceeded to run cover for Kerry throughout the ensuing campaign. Some of us, including Rush, have long memories, and are not drinking Juan McCain's Kool-Aid. Bob

    February 5, 2008 02:51 am at 2:51 am |
  12. Sam IA

    Anyone who can't see through this good cop/ bad cop routine probably is on Fox's blog anyway. This is nothing but the hate jocks making McCain more palatable to the independents.

    February 5, 2008 03:13 am at 3:13 am |
  13. Lightning Jack

    Mc Cain – Romney / Clinton-Obama , Republican / Democrat , Diet Coke / Diet Pepsi....... it's really just another cola in America's coo-la.

    With the exception of President Regan, both parties have turned the American Political System into nothing more than a crummy play where all the worst actors get the best parts.


    February 5, 2008 03:58 am at 3:58 am |
  14. David

    It matters not what Rush says:

    Liberals will do what they do - vote democratic and conservatives will not vote for McCain

    February 5, 2008 04:50 am at 4:50 am |
  15. 30%er

    There was not a time in american history that americans were more united than when the declaration of independence was drafted. This was not an easy process. It took many years of blood sweat and tears to complete. liberals in that time were every bit as hard willed to see the constitution remain intact as written. When the bill of rights was written it was done so to stand the test of time, not to be seen as a changeable constitution that could be swayed by popular oppinion of the moment. It was liberals who fought just as hard to see that the words written by our fore fathers stayed intact and meant what they were supposed to mean when written. To say republicans cant change with the times in one sentence and then say republicans are trying to change this country into somthing else is (whats a dip head ? ) dip headed ? Conservatives base core of beliefs is very simple. It is simple because its easy to live with and does not require a masters degree to decifer. WE conservatives believe the constitution was written for the common american to understand and should remain that way

    February 5, 2008 05:51 am at 5:51 am |
  16. 30%er

    There was never a time in history when americans were more united than when the declaration of independence was written It took many years of blood sweat and tears to complete the constitution and bill of rights. In the years that followed Liberals fought as hard or harder to see that thw words of our fore fathers stayed intact as written not to be seen as intresting and changeable. To say republicans cant change with the times in one sentence and then say republicans are trying to change america into somthing different is ( what is a dip head ? ) dip headed conservatives core beliefs are simple and un complicated. they are that way so they are easy to live with and understand. conservatives believe our constitution was written for the common man and woman and should remain that way not to be tweeked by interpretation of those in judicial poweror by popular oppinion of the moment.

    February 5, 2008 06:05 am at 6:05 am |
  17. Steve

    McCian is the best candidate on Defence issues and International issues by far. Looking at how things are going n those areas, it is a necesity to vote for McCain!

    February 5, 2008 06:37 am at 6:37 am |
  18. Values voter

    I will stay home or vote for Hillary. I hope to send a message to future Republican candidates-You will not get my vote until you share my values. I would rather not win than to vote for a Republican that isn't a Republican-after a while the Republican values are gone. Somtimes it takes a lost for people to get the message.

    February 5, 2008 06:56 am at 6:56 am |
  19. Jack Jodell, MN

    Hmmm-what do you get when you mix one acid-tongued guy with another? A PAIR of ignorant, cynical, unfeeling hardcore conservatives, I guess. These guys are both out of touch and irrelevant-time to move past them.

    February 5, 2008 07:13 am at 7:13 am |
  20. Alice Newman Center Harbor NH

    .... what are the GOP so-called conservatives and "talking heads" in such a spin about? They can't stand the thought that they can't manipulate McCain!!!

    What they fail to realize is that rational people are fed up with their unending hatred of anything other than their own narrow, twisted agenda.

    Americans who put the good of the Country before the good of the Party (you know the one that has been in complete control for the past 8 years and accomplished nothing but war and recession) ... these Americans are looking for answers and if it takes a President who can accomplish his agenda but working in a Bipartisan way (Rush can't even say the word) then God Bless this man!

    No one hates everyone like the GOP. They even enjoy eating their own!

    February 5, 2008 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
  21. John, Lexington MA

    Of course these Vets all stick together. It's a brotherhood between them. It's not a shocker to hear of all these endorsements from military (or former military) guys. America, look beyond these shallow endorsements. McCain has been in politics (nearly) forever, so of course he's made friends and 'paid his dues'. But does that really qualify someone for the presidency? Put the economy back where it should be – vote Romney.

    February 5, 2008 07:40 am at 7:40 am |
  22. herabaub

    Only rush, a pontificator and dispenser of koolaid, who never served in the military, could demonize a genuine war hero like McCain, or bob Dole.

    February 5, 2008 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  23. hep

    Mr. Limbaugh is often on the correct track. This time, not. He should help his listeners make their own decision on which Republican is their choice.

    February 5, 2008 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  24. Andy

    I too am a former Rush listener. Once McCain has the party nomination, the republicans will have no choice but to support him. Lest they want 4 to 8 more years of a Clinton in the WH. Regardless of who the nominee is for the Republican party, I will support them.

    At this point, what we need, is to make the tax cuts permanent, reduce government spending, kill all the pork belly earmarks, balance the budget, bring back the military findong and support of the Reagan days.

    Quit trying to modify the constitution. It has worked for 230 + years. If we leave it alone, it will work for another 230 +.

    More importantly, read the issues, do your research, and decide for your selves. Don't let a radio host decide for you.

    February 5, 2008 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
  25. Peter

    I was surprised at the number of negative comments about Rush, Republicans, and Dole, that is until I saw I had followed a link to a CNN website. No doubt the editors will not allow this post, which will affirm my position.

    February 5, 2008 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8