Gilmore: McCain, Guiliani, Romney Phony Conservatives (Video)

RalphHallow reported in yesterday’s Washington Times that,

Former Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III will become the first Republican presidential contender to say publicly that the three top-ranked party candidates are phony conservatives. Unlike the Democratic competition for the presidential nomination next year, where supporters of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois already are trading snide remarks and negative innuendos, Republicans have been observing their 11th Commandment about not speaking ill of one another.

However, Mr. Gilmore singles out former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and Sen. John McCain of Arizona in an ad that will be posted tomorrow on and his campaign Web site ( as well as e-mailed to likely voters in the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses.

“The three leading challengers for our party’s nomination may be good men, but they simply do not share our conservative values,” Mr. Gilmore says in the ad.

Here’s the video:

It’s not a bad ad, although Gilmore seems a little fidgety. Reagan was right, though. The problem with name-calling in the primaries–especially by dark horse candidates like Gilmore–is that it provides fodder for the other side to use in the general election campaign.

The classic case was the 1980 election itself, when Reagan added his former chief rival for the nomination, George Bush, to the ticket as his running mate. Bush’s characterization of Reagan’s fiscal agenda as “Voodoo Economics” was used to bash Reagan throughout the cycle and again in 1984. Now, granted, Reagan won both elections rather easily. But Bush gave the Democrats extra ammunition.

In 1988, an obscure ad that got major attention thanks to being played over and over again on the news shows pointed out that Michael Dukakis had signed a furlough for a prisoner by the name of Willie Horton who committed unspeakable crimes while out on said furlough. It was Al Gore’s team who had dug that one up in the primaries, only to see it used against Dukakis in the general election. Again, it’s not as if Dukakis was going to win anyway. But Gore didn’t do him any favors.

It’s much better for candidates to contest the primaries based on why they’re right for the job rather than tearing down their opponents. After all, one of those guys might win. Sure, Giuliani, McCain, Romney, Gingrich, and others have some major flaws that will not please parts of the conservative coalition. All all better conservatives than Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.

FILED UNDER: General, , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Sure, Giuliani, McCain, Romney, Gingrich, and others have some major flaws that will not please parts of the conservative coalition. All all better conservatives than Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.

    Exactly! I would hate to vote for McCain, but, as I keep telling folks around the right-o-sphere, would you rather have McCain, or (insert name of Democrat here)?

  2. Here, Here. I am certainly keeping the 11th commandment in mind when I look to the primaries. Unless you can convince me that the republican candidate would be worse than any of the likely democratic candidates, then talk about what you are going to do if elected, not the motes in your fellow GOP contenders eyes.

  3. Tano says:

    What is with you guys and Reagan mythologies?

    Reagan self-servingly came up with the “11th commandment” only after he had fought his way to the top of the Repbulcian heap – after fatally undermining and helping to defeat an incumbent Republican president in 1976.

  4. Tano,

    Check your history. The “11th commandment” was not created by Reagan. Regardless of where it came from, it is just good politics to not generate ammunition for the other side to use. The ‘voodoo economics’ and Willie Horton are two fine examples. Of course the left conveniently forgets Gore’s part in Willie Horton, because to remember it would be to expose the hypocrisy to their claims about racial prejudice and the GOP.

    The democrats can do what they want in their party, but I would like to see the GOP concentrate on debating their ideas than smearing mud. One builds and the other tears down.

  5. Well, Tano, consider: the Democrats will do the same thing. So many of the hard lefties, the Netroots folks, Soros, hollywood, etc, want Hillary about as much as Conservatives want McCain. But, if she wins their primaries, you know they will vote for her as “anyone but a Republican.”

    It’s a shame that that is what politics has come down to.

  6. floyd says:

    Mr.Teach; Conservatives want McCain???
    The democrats will once again choose our next president, as they have for the last two elections by refusing to support a sane candidate or agenda.
    The republicans have only won by default!
    Whoever wins this next election, one thing is CERTAIN, the American people will lose!

  7. floyd, don’t know where I said conservatives want McCain. They definately do not. But, he might be our default candidate, and the choice will be to at least elect a Republican (sort of) or allow a Dem in.

  8. Beldar says:

    “Voodoo economics” was just a particularly powerful and evocative construction that not only resonated, but seemed to demand a place in one’s memory.

    I saw Bush-41 at a campus event at UT-Austin before the primaries, and he used the line there before it had been widely picked up in the national media (although it was picked up pretty soon, and of course widely publicized). After the speech, as people streamed out of the lecture hall, I heard at least a half-dozen clumps of friends laughing about the phrase and repeating it over and over.