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. Dennis D

    It would be no different if the leading Dem Candidate was Joe Lieberman. The lefty wackos would be going nuts even though Joe has a very long liberal voting record.

    February 5, 2008 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  2. Seriously?

    Why waste your time bashing Rush? Decide who you want to lead us into bankruptcy and vote for Hillary or McCain. Decide who you want to allow us to be slaughtered and vote for Obama or Hillary. But Rush should have nothing to do with who you vote for. I'm a Rush fan, but that doesn't mean I'm voting for his canidate. It means I'm voting for the one that I think is best, and by that I mean the one who will take the longest to lead us to the slaughter.

    February 5, 2008 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
  3. Mike

    I use to be a "ditto head" but no more. Rush's only concern is his wallet and how taxes will affect his $20 Million a year paycheck.

    February 5, 2008 08:05 am at 8:05 am |
  4. Dale

    The point is, neither of these men have principles. Both are totally ruled by pragmatism and the politics of "getting along". And worse than that, I doubt that either even has a clue about what principles are about. I'm going Libertarian this year, I may lose but at least my vote will be where my heart is.

    February 5, 2008 08:05 am at 8:05 am |
  5. Homer Stokes

    Rush Limbaugh is a maggot jew warmonger. Him and the jew media will destroy America involving us in the war of Islam against the parasite yids.

    February 5, 2008 08:07 am at 8:07 am |
  6. Shrocker, Virginia

    Good for Senator Dole. Truth is, McCain is more conservative than many of his critics. Mr. Limbaugh doesn't get to tell me what a conservative is. McCain's pro-life, pro-strong defense, and against wasteful government spending. That's a conservative in my book. McCain is a good conservative, and a great American, and he has my support.

    February 5, 2008 08:07 am at 8:07 am |
  7. acarr

    this is the time for debate on issues which is good for the Republican party! Unlike McCain who jabbed us in the back countless times claiming to be reaching across the Isle and disenchanting anyone of us whom my have supported him. Dole your a loser...Clinton kicked your a–

    February 5, 2008 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
  8. David

    I consider myself conservative but I'm practical about it. I voted for George W both times and he has been the biggest disappointment since Jimmy Carter. He has so turned off middle America that many may even stay home rather than vote. I think if we don't have a nominee who is perceived as more moderate, independents will flock to the Democratic nominee in November. I was prepared to vote for Guiliani if I had to but think McCain is much more conservative and still has a chance in November.

    February 5, 2008 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
  9. MellyNY

    "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."

    That says it all.

    All due respect Senator Dole – you haven't worked with McCain since 1996.

    February 5, 2008 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  10. David Arnold

    Republicans are great at cutting their own noses to spite their faces. Sending Bush 41 packing " on principle " in '92 got us 8 years of Bill Clinton. How many Republicans in Congress claimed to be " Reagan Conservatives " and wound up spending tax money like drunken Democrats? Bush claimed to be conservative but never once vetoed a bloated and wasteful budget.

    Romney? Please, I don't care what he's saying now, I care about his record as Gov. he is no Reagan Republican either. He's actually worse than McCain because he's claiming to be something he's not. There hasn't been a Reagan conservative running for President since REAGAN. Get over it. it's like you people are willing to let the entire country fall off a cliff just so you can say " see, I told ya so " ......who said that again?

    February 5, 2008 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  11. Tom in North Carolina

    When do they quit scratching each others' backs? The Washington insiders' network lives on.

    February 5, 2008 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  12. Gary

    Had to coment about Dr. Ken. Tipical LIB. Resorts to name calling in every parograph. If you can't beat the Right take it thru the gutter. Dr Ken you are pathitic

    February 5, 2008 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  13. newzaroo

    Stop the senile straight talk. One old – tired – GOP election loser, defending another. Pathetic. Go Mitt!

    February 5, 2008 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  14. Kenneth

    Bill, you are either not a life-long Rush listener as you claim, or you are not too bright.

    February 5, 2008 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  15. Bill


    I support Mitt and I will as long as he is in the race – I hope, upon hope that he gets the nomination. It is a real horserace as of today 2/5/07. But I disagree with anyone that would sit out the general election should John McCain win the nomination and I am sure Mitt would say the same and I'm certain that Rush and the other friends we have on the radio will come to this way of thinking. I disagree with John on the illegal alien issue and other issues that I don’t see as him coming down on the conservative side, BUT, repeat BUT, I know, and you know, either of the Democrats will gut our military just a Bill Clinton did, and with their kook support I fear a worse gutting this time around. Mitt Romney won’t gut the military and John McCain won’t gut the military, so which ever one wins vote for him in the general election and put all other issues aside as the military and security trumps all. Once they are in office we can bombard them with calls, letters and emails to keep them inside the conservative lines.

    February 5, 2008 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  16. Bill the Libertarian

    As a Republican, I helped elect Bill Clinton in 1992 by voting for Ross Perot. As a Republican, I will help Hillary in 2008 by voting for the Libertarian candidate. A vote for John McCain would be akin to treason. The Republicans have handed over the country to the Socialists for the next 16 years (Hillary for 8, Bill Richardson for another 8) by not supporting Dr. Ron Paul.

    February 5, 2008 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  17. Neil, FL

    Right before every national election I have listened to Mr. Limbaugh and felt that he had to make up his mind whether he was a Conservative or a Republican as the two are not necessarily the same. He would seem to support the Republican Candidate at the expense of Conservative principles. I am pleased to see that this is no longer true. In McCain, the Party is taking a huge step to the left. He is not principled and if history is our guide he will be for amnesty, higher taxes and liberal judges. This contradicts 3 bedrock principles of Conservatism. I will sit on my hands and wallet during this election just as I did during the ones in 2006. When the Republican Party chooses to return to it's roots I will return to them.

    There are 3 Republicans who will never get my vote McCain, Mel Martinez and Lindsey Graham. They are simply Democrat lite. I will not waste my vote or money on the lesser evil. If Clinton or Obama are elected they will be the next Jimmy Carter and 4 years later the Country will be demanding the next Ronald Reagan.

    February 5, 2008 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  18. Mike B

    Rush –keep doing what you do best-telling the truth.
    McCain is thought to be middle of the road-and I say if your in the middle you vote with polls. A true leader leads and doesn't keep looking to see what everyone thinks.

    February 5, 2008 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  19. Kris

    to quote a Bush advisor... Bob, you are becoming "increasingly irrelevant."

    February 5, 2008 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  20. Quuzlfut

    John McCain would be the best candidate on the field for the job of President of the U.S. if only he weren't past his prime. Had he won the nomination back in '02, I believe he would have been the best president we've had since Reagan, and our nation would probably be in better shape than it is thanks to his efforts. That didn't happen, though, as we all know, and we wound up with Mr. Bush, undesirable perhaps, but still the Lesser Evil when compared to either Gore or Kerry.

    Now, still potent but certainly close to retirement, McCain is probably the best situated candidate, politically speaking, that the Republicans can field. The Democrat horde (ever the Peter-Pannish post-adolescent rebels who just want to beat "the establishment" (symbolic of thier fathers, Mr. Freud?) no matter what the cost) throw caution to the wind and push Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama at us, determined to put either a woman or a black man in the oval office, regardless of their qualifications to actually do the job. Millions support this symbolic gesture, of course, bleeding hearts, socialists, criminals, freeloaders and misfits of all sorts walking down the path toward self-destruction, hand-in-hand.

    Conservatives like Mr. Limbaugh and others who can understand the importance of electing the most competent president possible see Mr. Romney as the wisest choice. If he cannot overcome the populist wave, however, we'll still very likely support Mr. McCain come election time. Once again, we will have to choose the Lesser Evil.

    February 5, 2008 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  21. Peter

    I don't like any of the Republican candidates. John McCain 's views on immigration, McCain-Feingold, and taxes are a turn off. Not sure about Romney's commitment to defense and his immigration record is not good. Huckabee is too new.. I don't really know him well enough to run the country. No Ronald Reagan spirit in this crew. So here I sit , pondering who to vote for the morning of the primary.

    Oh well, guess I'll hold my nose and vote for Romney.

    February 5, 2008 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  22. Condi

    The only difference between McCain and Hillary is that McCain has his name on more liberal legislation that has impacted this country and our free speech rights!

    February 5, 2008 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  23. Erik

    I need some clarification, Rush is always tagged as being the spokesman mouth piece for the Republican Party. And yet now, he is out of step with them for opposing an obvious liberal in republican clothes (McCain). You whinners need to make up your minds about Rush. The fact is that he speaks his mind and he is more of a true conservative then most Republicans could ever hope to be. Despite what everyone claims, Rush will be around until he decides he wants to enjoy the fruits of his labor (and in this case mind) full time. He'll be a blast if Hillary or McCain wins. Romney would be the best choice for true conservatives.

    February 5, 2008 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  24. Sammy

    I don't know whay Rush said. I wouldn't waste my time listening to that idiot druggie.

    February 5, 2008 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  25. Amy

    As an active member of the military, McCain is the reason I will finally vote this time around, someone who's actually been there and knows what it means to REALLY serve this country. Rush Limbaugh, a lazy, drug-using blowhard doesn't even know what that means, he's only interested in money and doing what he can to make more. Guess that's why he calls himself a 'conservative', because he wants to keep his money and not have to suffer any hardships for the country that enabled him to make it. Shame on you Rush Limbaugh, you don't represent the fine young men that serve this country while you sit all cozy in Florida and pontificate.

    February 5, 2008 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
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