Social conservatives have jeered John McCain on his support for stem cell research, and on his opposition to a Constitutional amendment to define "marriage." Other Republicans have derided his co-sponsorship of a bill that would create a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants. McCain's support of campaign finance reform is also a flashpoint.
On those points, some charge that McCain is not a "true conservative."
But with Mitt Romney out of the race, McCain is the likely Republican presidential nominee, so those conservatives must come to terms with his candidacy.
Republican strategist and Romney supporter Bay Buchanan talks with Robert Siegel about the discord within the Republican Party.
Siegel asks Buchanan: For conservatives, is it better to work toward the election of a less-than-perfect conservative — McCain — than to see a liberal Democrat elected whom they could then oppose and try to unseat four years from now? Are conservatives ready to forgive what they see as McCain's shortcomings because he's likely to become the GOP nominee?
"No, we're not ready to close ranks — we're ready to give him a chance, to take a look and see what he's going to do," she says.
"Is he going to reach out to conservatives, is he going to recognize that we do have certain concerns about what his offer is as a president? What's he going to do with the vice president? Is he going to offer it to a conservative? ...
"How is he going to show respect for conservatives?" she asks. "It's something he has not done in the past, and we're willing ... to see how he's going to reach out and make certain that we're behind him. As of right now, most conservatives I know are in a holding pattern."
Buchanan says the only candidate for conservatives in the 2008 presidential race was Romney. Now that he has left the race, leaving Mike Huckabee and Mccain, "there's no question it's John McCain's nomination," she says.
Asked who has more leverage in the race — McCain or conservatives — Buchanan says McCain has "so much more to lose." McCain has one thing as his goal, she says: to be president of the United States. And he cannot do that without conservatives.
"We have to close ranks behind him," she says. "Not only do we have to vote for him, but he has to give us a reason to become energized, excited — to think that the option of John McCain is far, far better than the Democratic option, and right now, that's not so clear to us, to be quite honest."