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. Quuzlfut

    Make that the nomination in 2000.


    February 5, 2008 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  2. Beng

    You can plainly see who the Kool-aid drinkers are and who they believe (Drive by Media). All these people who listen to Rush, you would think it would improve their
    wisdom. But a Liberal is a wannta-be free thinker-void of morality seeking to change others minds, regardless of consequences.

    February 5, 2008 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  3. DaveyTP

    Looks to me the "Republican source" is McCain-Dole using this heart felt "letter" as a set up for a last minute ad for the "McCainiac". Nice try, but no cigar!

    February 5, 2008 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  4. Jan T

    I wonder what Bob will say when McCain picks Leiberman as his running mate. Then we can have 4 democrats running against each other, the most conservative being Joe Leiberman.

    February 5, 2008 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  5. Mike IL

    Im sure Rush will come around eventually. He's probably just off his "meds" right now.

    February 5, 2008 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  6. Matthew

    I was wise to not vote for Dole and I will not vote for McCain.

    McCain and 'friends' are responding to the conservative cry NOT TO VOTE FOR MCCAIN.

    The true conservatives are calling McCain for what he is – Rush Limbaugh and many others are endorsing Romney as the only choice of a conservative candidate. That is saying volumes.

    Vote fore ROMNEY and save our Republican Party !! He will lead us into a strong economy. A govt. for the people by the people. Vote for smaller government control, and give the country back to the people.

    And McCain is not a nice person… hot-temper, unfaithful, deceitful (running as a conservative when all the while he is liberal to the bone) etc…
    He'll not only keep us in a 100 year war 'My Friend' … he'll have them so mad he'll bring the war home to us.

    VOTE FOR ROMNEY!! Save our country and our economy. Romney can get us out of debt. You may notice he is one of the only candidates that didn't have to borrow and put all he had on the line… quite impressive. He can do that with our country too !!

    February 5, 2008 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  7. Matthew

    I'd love to read Limbaugh's response... lol

    February 5, 2008 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  8. Ainars

    Thats great, that Bob Dole write this letter. Rush and ather antiMcCain need to understand, that there is big difference between Hillary and McCain – she is prochoise, he is prolife, she vote against Bush nomantions for Suprme Court, but McCaiin vote for Robertson and Alito. He supports constructionist judges.

    February 5, 2008 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  9. Doug

    I do not prefer Senator McCain. But if the Democrat wins, we will more than likely have a Democratic Congress. If the Republican wins a Republican Congress. There are 2 questions when push comes to shove, who will follow through with the policy in Iraq? and who would be better at making law and confirming acceptable (right handed) appointments? I want a Republican Congress.

    February 5, 2008 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  10. Kay

    to all you left wingers, Rush is telling the truth about McCain, the media wants Mc Cain to win so he will have to face Hillary,(most likley). What you can't take Rush, but you will be led around by the media. If you would use your head, you would see that is what is happening in this country. You yell at one man Rush for speaking his thoughts, but you ignore all the hatred that the media sells every day. GO RUSH, and go MITT.

    Having just realized,CNN is part of the media, I doubt my opinion will be printed, OH WELL what a surprise.

    February 5, 2008 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  11. Shannon Shiflett

    "Two terms for the Clintons are enough."

    that's not for you to decide, bob.

    February 5, 2008 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  12. P. Quinn

    Look...............I admit I don't have a dog in this Republican race.......but whomever wins the nomination, I'll vote for him.

    February 5, 2008 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  13. ABB

    Jerk Murtha:
    Don't you think that maybe you ought to sober up before you go on a homo-phobic dialogue like that? Then maybe you could make at least one valid point.

    February 5, 2008 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  14. Len

    Rush Limbaugh is a real idiot.

    He is demagogue. He is the one who is destroying the Republican party. The Coulters and Limbaughs of this country are so obsessed with their own image that they would go as far as voting for Hillary Clinton, because many of real conservatives, I am one of them, will not follow their "lead".

    So, I would say to Rush: Rush, why don't you keepg getting more pills? You rascal. You are despicable. You are hypocrite. You are the negation of what this country of ours stands for. Go back to the rock from where you crawl with your poisonous message.

    Shame on you Rush. Either join us on the fight against Hillary, "the crying baby" Clinton, and Obama, or just go to hell.

    America does not need you!

    February 5, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  15. David M

    If the GOP wants to be a liberal party, more power to them. All I can say is good luck and I hope you enjoy your stay in the minority for a very, very long time. As a conservative, as a believer in the Constitution, I will never vote for another liberal Republican. No more voting against the Democrats. No more voting for the lesser of two evils. This long time Republican voter is way past fed up. If the GOP wants to replace my vote with a democrat, an independent or an illegal, go for it. I can tell you right now that only a few democrats will cross over and vote republican. Without conservatives the republican party will become a third rate, third party.

    February 5, 2008 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  16. David

    Bob Dole is the poster child for Big Government Republicans and one big reason Bill Clinton won in 1996. Nominating McCain as the Republican candidate would be a replay of Dole's moderate candidacy..

    February 5, 2008 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  17. Richard, FL

    "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."
    Limbaugh tells it like it is??? How can anyone listen to him after he basically stated that his listeners were so ignorant and so uninterested in truth, that they mindlessly bought his lies when he "(carried) the water for people who I don't think deserve having their water carried". Are his listeners, who like for him to think for them so they can just go "ditto", so hopeless that they don't recognize his lack of honesty and low opinion of them? Turn the radio off and WAKE UP!

    February 5, 2008 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  18. BOB


    February 5, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  19. Al

    The Party is over!! The Republican Party that is..................... I could no more vote for McCain, then I could vote for Hillary.

    February 5, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  20. Steve

    I made up my own mind long ago, and McCain is not a choise! He is a self promoting sanctamonious crackpot that reminds me of a cross between Ross Perot and Richard Nixon. The media wants him to be the nominee because they as pathetic liberals will feed mountains of material to whoever is the democrat nominee to bury him. The media is pulling the strings, they want to control the election, Circa '1984'.

    February 5, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  21. Ray

    So now Bob Dole is telling us what a conservative is? Well, Bob you never were one, ever. And certainly John McCain has never been one and never be one. All DC politicians are power hungry and only serve to grow the federal government by leaps and bounds. The federal government is on many levels a criminal enterprise and when they rip off a large portion of paycheck every week it makes me what is puke. It seems the republican party has now wants to redefine conservative. Well, we aren't buying it. Ron Paul is the only conservative running and look at how the so-called party leaders treat him. They are all criminals who take bribes from lobbyists, but Dr. Paul doesn't even spend his office budget every year. If the republican party doesn't give us a REAL candidate in November, I guess I'll vote for Hillary. At least I know she is a communist. These so-called republicans telling me they're conservative when they are just as Marxist as the democrats would be laughable if it wasn't so sad. Go ahead, make McCain the nominee and you'll put a democrat right in the White House.

    PS: Hey Bob, I still remember the pay raise you pushed through for the Senate on the backs of the coal miners!

    February 5, 2008 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  22. Mary Gelinas


    February 5, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  23. Joseph D Cicero

    I respect former Senator Dole for his values and honorable service to our nation. That said however, Bob represent the typical embodiment of GOP "leadership" in the form of following the democrats agenda.

    This is a congenital dysfunction that has brought the very idea of conservatism to the edge of an abyss. The deeply flawed mindset of trying to get along with one's political opponent via the "big tent drivel" is a mirage that continues to keep the republicans in a constant state of torpor and confusion resulting in their total failure to govern as a majority party when they had the ideal conditions for burying liberalism once for all.

    Lest the conservative movement succeeds in sidetracking the Mc Cain runaway train, the nation's future will continue to be a perilous journey to nowhere.

    February 5, 2008 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  24. disillusioned R

    The Republican party is very disappointing this time around.
    McCain is unabashedly "middle of the road", meaning that he's not at all conservative. His recent record proves this.
    Romney says he's conservative, but you just have to look at his record to see the truth there.
    Huckabee doesn't have a chance, since he's not blessed by the R leadership and doesn't have near the money of McCain or Romney.
    Ron Paul has the money, but his head-in-the-sand approach to foreign relations sours him.
    So, who's left?

    I wish I had a say in the primaries, but I'm from Pennsylvania (the 5th largest state by electoral college votes) which votes so late that the candidates will already be chosen.

    I cannot support McCain, Romney, or Paul. There's very little chance that Huckabee will be nominated, and I won't vote for either Hillary or Obama. I guess that leaves me to "waste" my vote in November... I guess the Constitution party will be getting my pick unless a miracle happens.

    Sorry Bob Dole, but you're way off base with McCain. He's not the person you knew in the Senate!

    February 5, 2008 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  25. bobby

    thank you sen dole mc cain or clinton or obama no brainer thats on of the problems in washington now. john mccain will reach across the isle. its time to stop this crap and work together instead of working on their egos, work on working together or we will end up with obama or clinton . then the real war begins. let the demos take control of the white house too. what will you and coulter say then..................

    February 5, 2008 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
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