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. Trashcan Man

    All this talk is just blatter for positioning. November is the real test. The large lump will float to the top in the primaries, and the real stool will float proudly in November.

    February 5, 2008 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  2. Foster

    I think Dole is genuine in his letter...just wrong. And Rush – is he still alive after abusing all of those pain killers?! Ohhhh, that's right, he had a prescription, yada, yada, yada, and it was all legal (LOL).

    February 5, 2008 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  3. Truth in NC

    Rush is not saying what he thinks will sell, he is saying the truth, McCain is a traitor to the Conservative cause. He is a liberal in Republican clothing. Now the Country club Republicians with their entitlement attitude had their golden boy lined up, and this was all decided in back room deals, but us true Conservatives found him to be lacking and raised the BS flag. Are we supposed to vote a person into office because this was decided by our betters? Or are we supposed to elect a person that represents our ideals? Juan McAmnesty does not have the best interests of the American people, he represents the Mexican government and I will not vote for him if he is the Republicans choice this year. Those of you that would vote for anyone with an (R) next to their name, regardless of what they stand for are traitors to our party and our great nation. And to top it off you have the nerve to bad mouth true patriots, those that would stand against what the Republican leadership is doing to our once great party and country. You Liberal conservatives are destroying our party and have pushed true conservatives backs to the wall. And if McVain gets the party nomination, I will not be sitting out, I will vote Democrat to insure the party fails.

    February 5, 2008 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  4. Mike L

    I have nothing but respect for Bob Dole. However,,McCain has since been nothing but trouble and problems for the Republicans. Much of what Dole sites happened shortly after the Republicans took over congress. That was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away! McCain did not have the opportunity to stand out as much then. We have since seen his real side as the numbers of Republicans fell in congress! As the numbers fell, he became an opportunist and sold out the Republicans and conservatives!

    February 5, 2008 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  5. Dr Tom

    Two quick points
    Rush is doing what he thinks is best for the conservative movement, and has every right to voice his opinion. I support Romney; McCain is too old and too mean as far as I am concerned.

    Why do people use this forum to bash Rush? He is not running for office. His drug use is known and he is one of 11 million that have abused prescription pain meds (BTW he WAS NOT doctor shopping–read before typing please)

    Point #2
    Who started the latest amnesty-er –umm immigration bill? If that is conservative, I have some land I would like to sell......

    February 5, 2008 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  6. Boston Murray


    I love Bob Dole, but he's got to realize that very few people really care what Rush says anyway. If they did, McCain would not be riding this huge wave of momentum.

    Rush and Ann Coulter are soooo last Tuesday. The vast majority of the people see through their myopically self absorbed and hate filled grab for attention.

    Hopefully soon Rush will overdose and leave us all alone.


    February 5, 2008 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  7. margaret

    McCain stinks and I don't need Rush to tell me that.

    I will vote for Romney today, but being from New York it will not make any difference.

    February 5, 2008 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  8. Jerk Murtha

    Gosh! I can hardly wait for "the" democrats to have complete control of "the" Federal Government! Just think...homosexuals walking hand in hand everywhere you go. Hell, who knows, they may even be allowed to have anal sex in public! Now let's see...where was I...oh yeah, homo's everywhere, then, UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE FOR EVERYONE!!! ...and if you don't like it, HILLARY will garnish your wages! Wow, I LOVE America! Next, increased taxes and fees to "prevent" global warming! Your car, as you know it today, will become a thing of the past! We will be just like europe! I can hardly wait. And forget about grilling hamburgers in your back yard, it causes to much pollution and contributes to global warming! Oh wait...wait...it just occurred to me that the united nations will have more authority over the USA with dems. in control. Heck, with the united nations in control, the newly elected democratic regime won't have to do much of anything... except figure out how to make tax increases more palatable, and have anal sex in their offices. Don't forget to turn in ALL of your weapons as the new usa will be striving to emulate the UK. Gosh, I can hardly wait for crime rates to rise after all the guns have been confiscated. It'll be great entertainment to hear the dems. tells us why crime rates have risen! Let's see now, it shouldn't be too long into the new majority’s rule, that American citizens will only be allowed to have 2 children, i.e. 1-boy, and 1-girl. If you have 2 boys, or 2 girls, one of them will have to be "aborted" so as to not disturb the "balance". I’m just not sure if this will come from the new usa gov't, or the united nations morons. They would actually one in the same, really! With madeline all(half)brite in control of "something", the new usa will be sure to equalize other "brother" and "sister" countries with our nuclear technologies. It will basically be a resumption of the policies during the clinton administration. Freezing interest rates on home mortgages, uhhh, maybe even telling Wall Street that is has to have positive trading every day or hillary will garnish their wages.

    That's only the tip of the iceberg.

    Thanks for listening,

    Jerk Murtha

    February 5, 2008 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  9. Jimmy from Charlottesville

    We will have a new sign at all the immigration offices "WELCOME TO THE DIVIDED STATES" John McCain, President

    February 5, 2008 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  10. Mike

    Reagan 'reached across the aisle' to liberals and agreed to amnesty and it was supposed to have been a ONE TIME effort to solve the problem permanently – IT WAS A LIBERAL IDEA AND IT DID NOT WORK. RINOs like George Bush and McCain plus the liberals IGNORE that fact and want to repeat the same mistake all over again but this time with TEN TIMES MORE ILLEGALS! We cannot even sustain the huge influx of legal immigration, ( numbersusa dot org ), so how in the world can anyone think we can sustain the influx of illegals on TOP of that? Liberals want illegals to vote for them and greedy businesses want cheap labor – neither is in the interest of this country. Immigration IS the front issue and McCain is on the wrong side of it. Bob Dole really is a nice guy – let's leave it at that.

    February 5, 2008 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  11. Bill Mulgrew

    I am old enough to remember the headlines 'DEWEY WINS'.
    We have a similar situation today except instead of 'DEWEY WINS' the headlines today are 'McCAIN WINS'.
    It would be a return to sanity if the real headlines are 'ROMNEY WINS'.
    Pray on it!

    Semper Fi

    February 5, 2008 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  12. pepper

    Why does the Republican elite keep trying to shove McCain down our throats???? What is behind all this? I just don't get it.... Reagan is rolling over in his grave. As is Lincoln.... I don't understand why the GOP elite is trying to move the republican party to the center–it just doesn't make since. McCain is a FAR cry from a conservative. He despises conservatives and there's no love loss amongst conservatives for him either. He will be another spend-a-holic bush who will tell us that he is just "reaching out to the other side" he's just "bringing people together." I will not vote for him. I will vote for the democrat simply to get the message to the republicans that I will not settle for a centrist republican (aka democrats). There won't be MUCH difference in McCain and Hillary. Did the RINO's not learn anything in the last election where they got taken to the cleaners??????? OPEN YOUR EYES, republicans. We are sick of it. I'm not going to hold my nose when I vote this time. Something tells me that the only reason the "big guys" are not rooting for Romney is because he's *gasp* MORMON. Because apparently we're electing a religious leader instead of president.... but then McCain is a pathetic choice for a religious leader as well....

    February 5, 2008 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  13. Skip

    Hillary the healer and uniter....not.
    Obama wants to negotiate with terrorists....good luck and stand by.
    Everyone "deserves" healthcare to go with the big screen TV they didn't earn...maybe not. Not with the dollars I get up at five in the morning to earn.

    McCain now supports keeping the tax cuts in place that he voted against twice....lying liberal populist! How abouit that amnesty bill!

    America was supposed to be a land where the government existed only to let us make our own decisions and take care of ourselves. Lots of jobs out there and I see no bread lines.

    Where is the conservative that believes we get what we work for and the only way to limit evil in government is to limit the size of government?

    The nanny society will come down in time. I just hope my grandchildren have the opportunity to one day live in a land free of government tyranny. Where they are free to succeed or fail on their own merrits. That was Thomas Jefferson's America. Not any more.

    February 5, 2008 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  14. Exlib

    Bob Dole-Thanks for your input. Perhaps when you were in the senate, McCain towed the party line. Since then, however, he's voted against tax cuts, supported amnesty, derailed the republicans attempt to show just what was going on in respect to the fillibustering of judges (gang of 14), limited free speech (McCain-Feingold), attempting to screw up health care (McCain-Kennedy), and now trying to screw up the economy by placing his beliefs in man-made 'global warming' (McCain-Lieberman). He also said he would not have apppointed Justice Alieto because he "wears his conservatism on his sleeve". Just how much further to the left does this man have to go? I respect his war record, every patriot does, but I respect my father's war record also. My father fought as a navy corpsman, supporting the marines in the South Pacific theatre during WWII, yet this is not the only point, on which a candidate should run, but on which, McCain is playing on the emotions of voters. Conservatives don't (traditionally) fall in love with their candidates, they look at their records. I truly hope that conservatives will examine just how McCain has

    February 5, 2008 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  15. cow

    Some of you have never even listen to Rush's show. If you were a normal lister you would know that he tells it like it is, no matter if it is popular or not. I don't agree with every thing Rush says, but he is simply telling the facts. Truth is there is no true conservitive running in this election. Mitt Romney just happends to be the closest to one.

    February 5, 2008 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  16. Taser Dad

    News Flash !Huckabee can't win and Ron Paul is a pipe dream.Regardless of who wins,there are only 2 things that we as Conservatives in our Country have to worry about and focus on-judges and defense.Whether it's Romney or McCain,that is what the future is and must be accepted.So make your vote,live with the winner , plug your nose and remember what I said.The alternative of an Obama or Hillary Court is too frightening to imagine.Taser Dad

    February 5, 2008 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  17. Exlib

    not supported conservative principles. (Sorry about the detatched sentence...my computer decided to send it before I did).

    February 5, 2008 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  18. Tom

    Somebody ought to tell Mr. Dole to check McCains voting record since 2001...the same year he was secretly courted to switch parties by the democrats. Why did they court him...they knew he was ticked off at the republican base (conservatives) for picking Bush over him. It appears McCain may not have physically shifted parties, but his voting record did...one can only wonder what deal was struck in 2001 with Ted Kennedy, Tom Daschel, and the democrat party to get McCain to shift his votes. The bottom line Mr. Dole: John McCain is no longer a conservative or a REPUBLICAN for that matter...he is a LDIRC (Liberal Democrat in Republican Clothing)...hence he is a DIRTBAG

    PS. Even the HISTORICAL RECORD records that the INFAMOUS TRAITOR General Benedict Arnold was once an American War Hero...so dont insult our intelligence by pushing that war hero rhetoric on us, we know that in politics allegances change faster than most perform underwear changes.

    February 5, 2008 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  19. Jimmy from Charlottesville

    New sign at Immigration Office " WELCOME TO THE DIVIDED STATES" Please proceed to the left for your drivers license and ss card.
    John McCain, President of CA,NY,FL,MI,IL and AZ

    February 5, 2008 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  20. Exlib

    Sorry again, McCain-Kennedy was the amnesty bill, not health care. Please accept my apology.

    February 5, 2008 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  21. Paul Gergen

    Funny how John M know says he has the Ronald Reagan Veto pen – get serious, these two where seperated by many issues and one had conservative values that did not have to be invented – John M. is a fictional character that reinvents himself by the minute. Perhaps Senator Dole missed his opportunity to be a fictional writer.

    February 5, 2008 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  22. Mark Boyles

    Mr. Dole,

    You are surely a man of strong convictions, who believes what he says.

    That said, you were not a good conservative leader. Your compromises in the Senate were famous for being "reasonable" to the Democrats and you were completely ineffective in advancing conservative causes.

    I can see why you would approve of John McCain. He too, spends most of his time finding common cause with Democrats rather than advancing conservative causes.

    You have had the opportunity to enjoy the role of "elder statesman" since your retirement. If you insist on championing John McCain, it will only cause the memory of your own lackluster record to be examined and the memory tarnished.

    Mark Boyles

    February 5, 2008 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  23. Cole

    I wish rush would read this letter on his show.

    February 5, 2008 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  24. Dano

    Bob is a man's man. I am a conservative. I detest Rush and Hannity. I do like Ann Coulter though. At least she has a brain. Now to quote the man's man," you know it, I know it, and the American people know it."

    Before you extreme lefties get too giddy over the so-called conservative entertainers losing talk radio share......remember they are just that entertainers. A McCain, Obama, or Hitlery Clintax presidency gives them four more years of entertainment material to work with. They have to be secretly beaming over all this.

    February 5, 2008 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  25. andrew

    If Huckabee isn't in league with McCain his supporters sure seem awfully in love with the Arizona senator. Maybe they should be promoting their guy, instead of someone else.

    February 5, 2008 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
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