John McCain was understandably in a good mood when he strode (at such a pace that I could only get a blurred photo!) through the entrance to the Omni Shoreham hotel this afternoon. His nomination as the Republican Presidential candidate is now assured.
His speech largely consisted of lots of references to the fact that some in the hall would have disagreed with him on things in the past, and of spelling out his "mainstream conservative record". Highlights:
- Booed when apologising for his conspicuous absence at last year's CPAC, then self-deprecatingly joked about being too busy successfully trying to rid himself of early frontrunner status.
- He paid a brief tribute to Governor Romney, although there was some laughing when he said he'd welcome him on board his campaign. Also congratulated the "great and fine man" Mike Huckabee for the success of his continuing campaign.
- Spoke of the responsiblity to unite the party, that he was acutely aware that he couldn't win without the support of the footsoldiers and that in future disagreements he would seek the counsel of fellow conservatives.
- Paid respect to the principled opposition to the stances he has taken on some issues and thanked the audience for the opportunity to make his case: "I wouldn't pretend otherwise, and you wouldn't let me forget."
- Quoted Edmund Burke: "Whenever a separation is made between liberty and justice, neither, in my opinion, is safe". He quoted Burke again towards the end when talking about his "deep, unwavering love of liberty" resulting in part from his time in captivity: "The true danger is when liberty is nibbled away, for expedience, and by parts".
- In his mandatory CPAC reference to Ronald Reagan, McCain spoke of going to CPAC for the first time on the invitation of Reagan, and how he and his Shining City on a Hill speech in particular formed his early views as a young Naval officer: "I'm as proud today of that association as I was then."
- He made a few references to the divine, and also to his pro-life beliefs: "liberty is a right conferred by the creator not governments", "I believe the pursuit of happiness is God-given to all who are born... and unborn."
- Good cheer for his passage on "the long overdue counter-insurgency that spared the tragedy of losing the war". Said that no other candidate appreciated how awful war was, but that he would not let America suffer the greater losses that would result from failure and that he believed "staying on the offence" would "keep this country safe, proud, prosperous and free."
- A fifteen second grinning pause was required after uttering the phrase: "illegal immigration", although his emphasis on "securing our borders first" won strong applause.
- Promised a "challenging, spirited contest" in which "standing by conservative convictions" would appeal to independents and Reagan Democrats.
- Promised to make Bush's tax cuts permanent, to cut corporation tax from 35% to 25%, and to "not let the Democrat-controlled Congress to increase taxes and choke economic growth".