Conservative Activist Blasts McCain's ?New Incarnation?

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:25 PM EDT

Arlington, VA ( - David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union (ACU) said Thursday that presidential hopeful Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has made himself unacceptable to many conservatives.

Speaking to reporters at the Conservative Political Action Committee meeting outside Washington Keene said, "This is a guy who claims he is conservative, who in fact until recently had a 86 percent lifetime ranking from the ACU. That dropped to a 68 in the last Congress, as he 'matured' and prepared to run for president."

However, Keene said that McCain still supports many policy initiatives that conservatives find appealing.

"They like the fact that he is against pork barrel spending, and the fact that he, until recently, has been a fairly consistent low-tax, anti-tax senator. They like the fact that even in his current incarnation, he's a leader against taxing the Internet."

But Keene said McCain and conservatives have a lot of disagreements over policy.

"John McCain made the assumption that campaign finance reform was good issue, I think because the media liked it. . . . He realized that it was one way he could cultivate elite support without costing himself any votes. What he didn't realize is that conservative activists follow the issue, know about it, and blame him for taking a position that they think is dangerous in terms of government regulation of speech and political activities."

However, Keene commended McCain for his consistent position on right to life issues, but said he believes right to life groups still have qualms about the Arizona senator.

"They're violently opposed to him, despite the fact that he supports their positions, because he wants to cut off their ability to lobby and raise money."

Keene also said McCain was an anti-tax candidate who started an anti-tobacco crusade but ended up supporting "the largest tax increase of all time" - the failed Senate tobacco bill.

Keene believes conservatives in Washington don't relish the thought of working with McCain, and not because of his alleged temper.

"John McCain is one of those politicians who sees himself as always right, and those who oppose him as not just wrong, but evil."

McCain is not scheduled to address the CPAC conference, slated to end Saturday.