An rhsager.com exclusive…
On Thursday, I got hold of some early results from a large survey the fiscally conservative Club For Growth is doing of its membership. McCain is near the rock-bottom of the pack when Club For Growth members are asked whom they would like to see made the GOP presidential nominee in 2008, and he comes in at the very top when members of the group are asked whom they would not like to see nominated. His favorable/unfavorable rating is also very poor with this crowd.
The Club For Growth is in the midst of conducting an extensive presidential survey of its 40,000 members, by phone and by email. So far, they’ve gotten roughly 3,300 responses.
The preliminary numbers I have obtained are as follows:
* Club members’ top choice for 2008 GOP nominee for president: McCain received 5%
* Club members’ least favorite choice: McCain received 43% (first place)
* McCain’s favorable/unfavorable rating with Club members: Favorable 16% / Unfavorable 76%
(On those first two questions, Club members were asked to pick from a list, including: Romney, Pataki, McCain, Gingrich, Hunter, Huckabee, Hagel, Giuliani, Brownback, or no answer.)
Asked to comment, Club For Growth President Pat Toomey offered a rather bleak assessment of McCain’s chances at wooing fiscal conservatives in the GOP primary.
“This is a real reflection of a serious challenge McCain has with free-market conservatives and with limited-government conservatives,” Toomey said. “He very prominently spoke out against the Bush tax cuts … He spouted class-warfare rhetoric usually voiced by the Democrats.”
What’s more, Toomey said it would be a mistake to underestimate the importance of McCain’s role in bringing campaign-finance reform to American politics with his McCain-Feingold bill. “Frankly, our members, almost by definition, are concerned with weighing in on issues and having a voice in American politics,” Toomey said. “His willingness to diminish the First Amendment is a matter of great concern.”
Despite the fact that McCain is good on trade policy and on opposing pork-barrel spending, Toomey said, “Fundamentally, limited government requires limited taxes, and economic growth requires lower marginal taxes.”
Asked whether McCain could do anything to woo back fiscal conservatives, Toomey offered only: “You never say never in politics.”
Of course, McCain has already spent some considerable time trying to win back fiscal conservatives, flip-flopping on the Bush tax cuts (calling for their renewal after having opposed their original passage) and flip-flopping on the estate (a.k.a. death) tax.
McCain and the Club For Growth — a so-called “527″ organization — have long been at odds. McCain has repeatedly cited the Club For Growth as the type of group that made his campaign-finance-reform bill necessary, because they run lots of hard-hitting (and sometimes even negative) ads in House and Senate races in the days leading up to federal elections. In 2000, the Club ran ads boosting the candidacy of now-Rep. Jeff Flake, a rising fiscal-conservative star, for an Arizona congressional seat — leading to the defeat of an opposing candidate hand-picked by McCain.
Nonetheless, the vehemence of the opposition to the purported GOP frontrunner by the leadership and membership of the Club For Growth is pretty striking this early in the game.