Club for Growth Takes Aim at McCain

Club for Growth—the deep-pocketed group known for waging campaigns from the right against Republicans it deems have strayed from the supply-side line on economic issues—has been running down the list of GOP presidential candidates, offering its ideological imprimatur or a tacit threat that it would come out swinging against a contender it didn’t like. While Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback apparently passed the test, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee received a strong rebuke. This led Huckabee, who likes to boast that his definition of “pro-life” includes the period between birth and death, to respond in his speech to CPAC with a promise that he would sign Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge. The Club for Growth half-heartedly commended the pledge, while bragging of its influence under the headline “Huckabee Buckles under Heat.”

Now the Club is taking on Arizona Sen. John McCain, and its verdict contains the harshest language yet:

While Senator McCain’s economic record contains a number of pro-growth positions, such as his support for school choice and free trade, and his steadfast opposition to wasteful government spending, his overall record is tainted by a marked antipathy towards the free market and individual freedom.

This in spite of being a “strong proponent of free trade” and a “consistent supporter” of privatizing Social Security, “boldly” and “eloquently” pushing private school vouchers, and being “at the forefront of the battle to eliminate wasteful projects.” Club for Growth President Pat Toomey expands on the verdict in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, decrying McCain’s supposed “class-warfare demagoguery” and “tenuous commitment to free markets” (temporary link).

Not surprisingly, McCain is skipping the Club for Growth’s winter conference in Palm Beach, despite being invited. GOP frontrunners Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, and Newt Gingrich will be there, as well as Brownback.