To me, "conservative" means smaller government, lower taxes, individual freedom, personal responsibility and accountability, and less government involvement in our private lives. That said, I'll be the first one to admit - to argue strongly, in fact - that the vast majority of politicians representing themselves as conservatives are the furthest thing imaginable from that ideal.
And while I generally have identified myself publicly as a conservative, I will be the first to say - nay, to STRESS EMPHATICALLY - that I hold many views on issues that are decidedly NOT conservative in conservatism's current incarnation. For just a few examples, I support gun control (done CORRECTLY - thoughtless and broad bans of guns just criminalize gun ownership, and the criminals aren't terribly concerned about that); I support an independent Palestinian state; I support the right to gay marriage (the slippery slope and/or destruction of the family arguments are complete crap - and I'll probably address that issue all on its own in the future); I support the separation of church and state (although I do NOT believe that includes barring the practice of religion publicly - provided that religious practice falls within the bounds of law as established to protect the general public).
I believe a lot of things that don't fit into anyone's mold, but I've found that the fact that I have professed myself to be a conservative has painted me into a corner of representing the 'evil empire,' and no matter who I really am or what I really believe in, some will never view me as anything else.
Now, that said, I'm not even supporting a Republican in this presidential election. I waited and watched through the primary process and the early debates, and I watched as the number of candidates grew and grew until they started dropping off one by one. Throughout it all, I was unable to find one candidate who exemplified what I wanted in a president. I heard the same from nearly all others on the right, or Republican, or conservative 'side.' When it all came down to McCain, I was left with the choice of supporting the Republican party for the sake of following the party line (which is not something I would ever do without belief in the candidate), support the 'other' party for a different candidate with positions more in line with my own (although there is not anyone left in the race with a strong similarity to my own position) or stay out of the process entirely. My conscience does not allow me to stay out of the process - I'm a firm believer in the responsibility of active participation of an INFORMED electorate. So I have found the candidate who is most closely aligned with my positions and current priorities from those available to me. Of course I should add that I don't believe that anyone currently running for the office has the intention AND ability AND knowledge to actually fulfill the promises being presented. But that's probably because I don't really trust anyone - particularly politicians - so don't try to argue character with me on that last statement.
My point of this, which has been lost somewhere along the way, I'll admit, is to look beyond the broad labels generated to more comfortably contain individuals into the category of "us" or "them." People are people are people. Each of us can find SOMETHING in any other person that we have in common, that we hold in opposition, that we admire, that we despise, that we respect and that we find shameful. No two of us are the same - so what exactly is "us" and "them" anyway?