James Dobson, a key leader among social conservatives, has stayed away from endorsing a Republican candidate.
But on a conservative radio talk show today, he delivered what amounts to an anti-endorsement of John McCain, the GOP front-runner in the polls who could become the de facto nominee today.
Mitt Romney's campaign highlighted the remarks by Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, in which said he could not vote for McCain as "a matter of conscience."
"I'm deeply disappointed the Republican Party seems poised to select a nominee who did not support a constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage, who voted for embryonic stem cell research to kill nascent human beings, who opposed tax cuts that ended the marriage penalty, and who has little regard for freedom of speech, who organized the Gang of 14 to preserve filibusters, and has a legendary temper and often uses foul and obscene language," Dobson said on the "Laura Ingraham" show.
"I am convinced Sen. McCain is not a conservative, and in fact, has gone out of his way to stick his thumb in the eyes of those who are. He has at times sounded more like a member of the other party."
Dobson goes on to cite McCain's flirtation with leaving the GOP in 2001 and with becoming Democrat John F. Kerry's running mate in 2004, and his remarks praising Democrat Hillary Clinton. "Given these and many other concerns, a spoonful of sugar does not make the medicine go down," Dobson said. "I cannot, and I will not vote for Sen. John McCain, as a matter of conscience."
Dobson said if McCain is the nominee, "I believe this general election will offer the worst choices for president in my lifetime," and he "simply will not cast a ballot for president for the first time in my life."
"These decisions are my personal views and do not represent the organization with which I'm affiliated," Dobson said. "They do reflect, however, my deeply held convictions about the institution of the family, about moral and spiritual beliefs, and about the welfare of our country."