February 1, 2008

McCain’s Democratic Flirtations

Republican Presidential Candidate John McCain is within days of winning the GOP nomination, but it’s never a good sign when your campaign has to deny that the candidate almost left the Party that he is about to lead heading into the 2008 elections.
Mark Salter, who in 2001 was McCain’s chief of staff and now works for the senator’s campaign, said McCain has not at any moment thought about leaving the Republican Party: “Never at any time. Never.”
The Hill reports Democratic Senators John Edwards, Edward Kennedy and Harry Reid were part of intense recruiting effort along with Senator Tom Daschle and Rep. Tom Downey to bring the Republican Senator to the Democratic side.
In interviews with The Hill this month, former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and ex-Rep. Tom Downey (D-N.Y.) said there were nearly two months of talks with the maverick lawmaker following an approach by John Weaver, McCain’s chief political strategist. [..]

Other senators who played major roles in the intense recruiting effort, according to Democrats, were then-Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) as well as Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

“John [Edwards] at that time was working with McCain on a couple things and there was a sense that because of his relationship that he might be a good person to talk to him,” Daschle said. “He was clearly one of those that we thought could be helpful.”

A source close to Edwards said Daschle’s comments are accurate.
Republicans did take notice of McCain flirtations with the Democratic Party. Former Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert believes John McCain was more of an ally of the Democrats than Congressional Republicans.
Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert questioned John McCain’s Republican credentials today, saying he was always known among the GOP as “the undependable vote” in the Senate and always “allied with Democrats.” [..]

The former House speaker has not had a lot of good to say about McCain in recent years. He contended that on agenda items under the Republican-controlled Congress, “it just seems like everything we did, John was someplace else.”

“It was McCain-Kennedy, it was McCain-Lieberman, it was McCain-Feingold on campaign finance reform,” Hastert said, noting Democratic co-sponsors. “He was against us on tax cuts and his form of immigration reform was to open the gates and let everybody in.”

Asked if he considered McCain a conservative, Hastert said, “In my opinion, he is not.”
To be fair, Dennis Hastert is a Mitt Romney supporter. The Illinois Republican does point to the Keating Five scandal and John McCain's presidential ambitious as the reason why John McCain changed his political ideology.
McCain was one of five senators implicated in the 1989 Keating Five, a congressional scandal alleging federal regulators were pressured against an investigation of Charles Keating, the former chairman of the Lincoln Savings and Loan Assn.

McCain was cited by the Senate Ethics Committee for “poor judgment” but it recommended no further action.

Speaking later to the Tribune, Hastert, who retired from Congress in November of last year, said McCain changed after the Keating Five to become “more of a populist.”

“He was gearing up for a run for the presidency in 2000 so he had to change track and clean up his image, from my point of view,” Hastert said.
Wow, Maybe Rush Limbaugh is right. A John McCain presidential candidacy might tear apart the GOP. It’s going to be fun to watch.


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