PHILADELPHIA — Rep. Wayne Gilchrest campaigned for Sen. John McCain’s presidential bid and came to Philadelphia as a McCain delegate. But on Wednesday, he stood before the Maryland delegation and said he “enthusiastically” supports the candidacy of Texas Gov. George W. Bush.
Gilchrest and Delegate Donald Murphy, the two McCain delegates in the state’s 31-member delegation, said it was not easy to switch allegiance from a man they believe in. But it was something they said they had to do – the delegation voted unanimously for Bush on Tuesday.
“If you are a loyal party activist, you do what you have to do,” said Audrey Scott, a Bush delegate to this convention.
Scott has been there. She was a delegate for Bush’s father in 1980, but switched her allegiance to Ronald Reagan when it became clear he would win the nomination.
Scott said the McCain delegates have been “real team players” throughout the convention.
When McCain lost the Maryland primary, Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville, said he was pragmatic enough to know that Bush had the best shot of actually becoming president. McCain knows that too, Gilchrest told the other Maryland delegates.
Gilchrest even said Bush made him think of a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote about youth needing to look up to someone who will be filled with character. That person is Bush, he said.
Still, watching McCain address the convention Tuesday gave Gilchrest a flash of what could have been.
“I really thought McCain gave a good speech,” Gilchrest said, a little wistfully.
Before Tuesday’s speech, in which McCain praised Bush, Murphy,R-Baltimore County, said that he knew it would be hard to watch his candidate at the podium, urging the nomination on another candidate and not accepting it himself.
“I’ll be biting my lip really hard,” Murphy said.
In his speech, McCain called Bush his friend. Murphy said that showed how McCain wanted to make sure the party was unified before the November election. After the speech, delegate after delegate came up to Murphy on the floor of the convention hall to tell him how impressed they were with McCain.
“I told them, `Is it any wonder I like the guy?'” Murphy said.
McCain met with his delegates Sunday and released them from supporting him. Murphy said McCain was emotional during the meeting – as were many people in the room – when McCain urged them to support Bush.
Even though Murphy said he still favored McCain, he was looking at the “big picture.” He and the other delegates want a Republican president and the only way to get that is to support Bush.
“It is more important for Bush to win in November than the fact that McCain won some of the primaries,” Murphy said.
“Don Murphy believed strongly in McCain,” said Sen. Chris McCabe, R- Montgomery. “He also recognized that having a Republican in the White House is good for America. He took a cue from McCain to support Bush for the good of the party and the good of America.
“Both of them (Gilchrest and Murphy) have been extremely supportive,” McCabe said.
Charles Johnson, a Maryland delegate and Bush supporter, said there were no apparent hard feelings between Gilchrest and Murphy and the rest of the delegation, after the two made it clear they were now supporting Bush.
“I have a lot of respect for them for coming on board so quickly,” Johnson said.
— Capital News Service reporters Robert Patrick and Jonathan Sheir contributed to this report.