Oliver North

Just four hours after former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's pragmatic decision to suspend his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, Sen. John McCain stood before the annual Conservative Political Action Conference and asked the assembled activists to support his bid for the White House. The "maverick" acknowledged differences he has had over the years with many in the room, offered a spirited defense of his 24-year record in Congress, and made an eloquent, self-effacing appeal for conservatives to unite in the "urgent necessity of defending the values, virtues and security of free people against those who despise all that is good about us."

Reaction was swift -- and predictable. Both Sens. Clinton and Obama, locked in a slash-and-burn contest for Democratic dollars and delegates, quickly dispatched dueling news releases, each claiming dominance over the presumptive Republican nominee. Earlier in the day, Howard Dean, their party's chairman, warned that delay in choosing a standard-bearer could jeopardize Democratic hopes in November: "The idea that we can afford to have a big fight at the convention and then win the race in the next eight weeks is not a good scenario." Regrettably, some of my conservative friends seem unwilling or unable to grasp that the same applies to the GOP and appear disposed to squander an obvious advantage.

My "colleagues" in the so-called mainstream media gladly roll their cameras and recorders for those who assert that "McCain is not a real conservative" or who say, "I can never support him," and the ones claiming, "I just won't vote this year." It is, for me, a disheartening display because I have, as we say in the Marines, "been there -- done that."

After I won the 1994 Republican nomination for a U.S. Senate seat in Virginia, I naively assumed that all in the GOP would pull together behind my conservative candidacy. I clearly don't know much about politics. If I did, I'd be writing this from my U.S. Senate office instead of my home in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains. But at the trade school John McCain and I attended in Annapolis, Md., they did teach me how to count. I lost by a narrow margin in a three-way race. Some of those who were with me then are among those who now say they won't support John McCain.

Worse still, since this election cycle began last year, the Democrats have raised more money than the GOP, and in the primary balloting that began last month, Democrats have turned out more voters. These numbers matter because they reflect the energy and commitment of the opposing parties in this year's presidential contest.

Oliver North

Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.