Saturday, January 19, 2008

McCain: Spending Is Out of Control


FLORENCE, S.C. (AP) — Republican John McCain said Friday his party lost control of federal spending and expressed reservations about President Bush's economic stimulus plan as South Carolina voters got bad economic news on the eve of the GOP presidential primary.

Rival Mike Huckabee told voters Bush is on the right track with a plan to boost the economy. Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson mostly concurred.

"I think if we're going to have a stimulus plan, that's probably the direction we need to go in," Thompson said in Spartanburg, S.C.

Pocketbook issues took the forefront of the presidential campaign here with the sobering news that the state unemployment rate had hit 6.6 percent in December, as a result of the largest one-month increase in nearly 20 years.

The number of South Carolina residents without jobs rose nearly 16,000 to 142,800 in December, the state Employment Security Commission reported Friday. The total number of nonfarm jobs fell by 5,900 in December from the month before.

Bush backed a package of about $145 billion worth of tax relief and other incentives Friday to give the economy a "shot in the arm." The president and Congress are scrambling to take action as fears mount that a severe housing slump and painful credit crisis could cause people to close their wallets and businesses to put a lid on hiring, throwing the nation into its first recession since 2001.

McCain blamed overspending in part for the nation's economic troubles.

"As a Republican, I stand before you embarrassed. Embarrassed that we let that spending get out of control, and it led to corruption. Now we have former members of Congress residing in prison," McCain told a town-hall style meeting at the Carolina Hospital East Campus in Florence. "If I'm president, it's going to stop."

"I'm not too astonished," by the bleak news, McCain added. "We let spending get totally out of control, and it continues today, and I'm sorry to tell you this."

McCain has voiced apprehension over proposals for temporary tax cuts and more spending as suggested by many Democrats and Republicans, saying they result in additional strains on resources. McCain has instead proposed cuts in corporate taxes from 35 percent to 25 percent, extension of Bush's tax cuts, and elimination of the Alternative Minimum Tax, which was enacted to prevent wealthy taxpayers from using many deductions to avoid federal income taxes.

Meanwhile, Huckabee told voters at a technical college in Greenville, S.C., that Bush's plan is "a good short-term solution."

"But I'm going to tell you, we need some long-term solutions in this country," he said.

One of his solutions is to replace income taxes and all other federal taxes with a 23 percent national sales tax, with rebates for the poor and working class. Such a system, Huckabee said, would force "drug dealers, illegals, prostitutes, pimps and gamblers — you know, all the relatives you didn't want to come to your house this past Christmas" — to pay taxes.

"Imagine what would happen in this country when everybody is having to do their business on top of the table, instead of underneath the table," the former Arkansas governor said

Huckabee noted that his rivals said the national economy was doing well at a debate last year in Dearborn, Mich.

"I think now they realize they didn't get it," he said. "They all talk to a handful of folks at the top and never listen to the people who really make this country work. That's the people who go from paycheck to paycheck and for whom there is no safety net."

Thompson said Bush's $150 billion proposal with rebates could work along with a half percentage point interest rate reduction.

Interest rate reduction is critical with tightening consumer credit, Thompson said, "but in combination with that it makes a certain amount of sense to target a certain amount of relief in terms of tax rebates or in terms of withholding amounts" to put money into the hands of people who would put it into the economy.

"I think increasing the child tax credit for a year from $1,000 to $1,500 would do a lot of good," Thompson said.

An MSNBC-McClatchy Newspapers poll released Thursday of likely Republican primary voters in South Carolina had McCain and Huckabee in a virtual tie at 27 percent to 25 percent, respectively. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who has been pitching himself to voters as the candidate best able to turnaround the economy because of his successful business career, was third in the poll at 15 percent.

Another poll released Friday by Fox News/Opinion Dynamics gave McCain the lead at 27 percent, followed by Huckabee, 20 percent, and Romney, 15 percent. The poll also found one in five South Carolina Republicans are still undecided. They named the economy as the campaign's top issue, and those who did preferred McCain, according to the poll.

Associated Press Writer Jim Davenport contributed to this story.

McCain responds to attacks in S.C.

Posted by Foon Rhee, deputy national political editor

John McCain, who was slimed before losing the South Carolina primary in 2000, is sitting back this time around.

An Internet ad his campaign launched today uses rival Mike Huckabee's own words to rebut charges in automated telephone calls that McCain supports medical tests on fetuses and amnesty for illegal immigrants.

"Senator McCain, no matter what anyone may say, is a genuine conservative," Huckabee says in the web-only ad, which splices together comments from interviews and debates. "John McCain is a hero in this country. He's a hero to me. If you look at his record, he's got a solid record on things that really matter. He's pro-life, he's strong for our country's defense and security."

Then, it says on the screen, "If you want the truth about John McCain, just ask Mike Huckabee."

Thursday, McCain used another web ad to respond to mailers suggesting he put his well-being above that of his fellow POWs in Vietnam. That ad featured testimonials from some of those held captive in the Hanoi Hilton with McCain.

Eight years ago, McCain was also coming off a win in the New Hampshire primary. But in the final days before the South Carolina, he was derailed in part by false rumors that he had fathered an illegitimate black child. This campaign, McCain created a fast-response truth squad in South Carolina, and tried to pre-empt a reprise of those rumors by send out a mailer about his record against abortion and for adoption that featured his wife holding the daughter they adopted from "Mother Teresa's orphanage in Bangledesh."

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

McCain brings his 'straight talk' to Muskegon

Posted by Steve Gunn
The Muskegon Chronicle January 15, 2008 06:47A

U.S. Sen. John McCain seems determined to stick to his "straight talk" reputation, even when addressing a friendly group of fellow Republicans on the eve of a crucial primary election.

He demonstrated that Monday afternoon at a rally at Nichols Corp. in Norton Shores, where he spent parts of his speech trumpeting themes that aren't usually high on Republican wish lists, like the need to battle global warming, or provide federal subsidies for the salaries of displaced workers who are forced to take lower-paying jobs.

And the crowd still seemed to love it, chanting themes like "Mac is back" during his short-but-spirited presentation.

Whether voters around the state feel the same way will be determined Tuesday when McCain faces GOP rivals Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and others in the Michigan presidential primary.

McCain, joined by his wife Cindy McCain, Republican National Committeewoman Holly Hughes, Republican National Committeeman John Yob, U.S. Rep. Fred Upton and State Senator Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, spoke to a crowd of about 1,000 supporters.

The issue of global warming and the perceived need to lower greenhouse gas emissions and develop alternative energy sources were major themes.

He called for the development of solar, wind and tide-powered energy sources. He called for battery-powered cars and independence from oil producing nations. He said he had long favored "green technologies" and the "green revolution" that's spreading across America.

"Suppose there is no such thing as climate change, but we adopt these proposals, in a free enterprise fashion, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in this country and the world," McCain said to polite applause. "(At the least) we hand these young people a cleaner planet.

"But suppose we are right when we say the ice caps are melting and native Alaskan villages on the Arctic Circle are tumbling into the ocean. . .and we do nothing. Then what kind of planet are we handing to these young Americans?"

McCain based his call for energy independence on national security, claiming the U.S. sends about $400 billion per year to oil producing nations, and some of that money ends up with terrorist organizations.

He also called for the continued development of nuclear energy as an everyday power source.

"We always imitate the French -- 80 percent of their power comes from nuclear energy," he said.

While on the subject of France, McCain noted that the Western European nation, known for its criticism of American foreign policy, recently elected a conservative, pro-American president.

"It just shows you that if you live long enough, just about anything can happen," he quipped.

McCain also drew a lukewarm response to his proposal to use federal funds to retrain displaced workers, and to subsidize their salaries if they are forced to accept lower paying jobs.

"We are a Judeo-Christian valued nation," McCain said. "We can't just leave these people behind. I'm no liberal or big spender, but aren't we a nation that has to take care of workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own?"

McCain also tried to deflect some criticism he's taken from Republican rivals in recent days over his suggestion that some Michigan manufacturing jobs are gone forever.

"I know the old jobs are gone, but there will be new jobs created, and I believe we are on the threshold of a great new day for Michigan," he said.

McCain also threw out a healthy portion of "red meat" stances for the fire-breathing partisans in the audience.

He called for improved medical care for military veterans, promised to hunt down Osama Bin Laden "to the gates of hell," and pledged to seal the nation's borders to illegal immigrants.

He also criticized federal spending, particularly "earmarks" like the one that would have committed millions of dollars to build a bridge to an Alaskan island with fewer than 100 residents.

He said Republicans lost control of Congress in 2006 because they spent too much, and have to return to their frugal ways.

"We Republicans have a special responsibility because of our traditional belief in the careful stewardship of your tax dollars.," he said.

McCain drew the loudest cheers for his defense of the war in Iraq, particularly the recent troop "surge" that has reportedly improved security and brought relative peace to that country.

McCain has received a lot of credit recently for calling for a surge-like troop buildup long before the Bush administration adopted it.

"My Democratic friends who declared the war lost, who said we couldn't make progress politically in Iraq, were wrong," he said. "I'm not going to ask them to apologize.

"But I am going to ask them to recognize our success and go back to the old American tradition that says partisanship stops at the water's edge, so we can join together to beat Al Queda, gain victory in Iraq and bring our troops home with honor."

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Republican: John McCain

The oft-told story about John McCain's military service resonates to this day because it says so much about his integrity, strength and patriotism.

After being shot down and taken prisoner during the Vietnam War - and suffering many beatings - he was set to be released after the North Vietnamese learned his father was a prominent U.S. admiral. His captors wanted to score propaganda points. McCain, though, insisted prisoners held longer be freed first. He was kept in prison - for five years in all - and beaten again and again.

Even Hollywood would have a tough time matching that heroic plot line.

Today, McCain continues to be a man of strong conviction and unquestionable character. His leadership skills and experience make him the best Republican candidate in the field, and we support his nomination.

With his appeal to independent voters, his chances come November appear to be the Republicans' best bet for victory.

We appreciate that McCain campaigns on the issues, not demagoguery, and that he has a keen sense of bipartisan solutions to the nation's problems. He steers clear of polarizing statements and demonizing opponents. For instance, we can't see the Arizona senator participating in any kind of shameful and specious Swift Boat attack that became a centerpiece of the 2004 Bush campaign. Not with McCain's honesty and integrity.

Citizens are showing an eager desire to head in a new direction - away from the poisonous politics that have dominated the Bush years.

We don't march in lockstep with McCain on all the issues. While he has occasionally criticized Bush on Iraq, he nonetheless backs the war and especially the surge. He believes we must succeed in Iraq to help build a stable and secure region. We oppose the war and want to see our troops come home soon.

Yet McCain's ongoing backing of the surge, despite widespread opposition, shows the courage of his convictions as the strategy continues to show success. It appears voters have noticed, with his once-moribund campaign now very much alive and kicking thanks to victory in the New Hampshire primary.

McCain's economic policies focus on a pro-growth tax policy: keeping tax rates down and rewarding savings and investments. He would make Bush's income and investment tax cuts permanent. His policy of fiscal discipline - ending the Bush practice of excessive borrowing and deficit spending - is also appealing.

In order to chop away at wasteful spending, he plans to seek line-item veto power to halt earmarks and pork. Considering past failed efforts at this, McCain faces a Herculean task - but one we fully support.

He is not afraid to go against the GOP grain, either. He has vowed to be a leader in combating global warming, strive for public disclosure of the official activities of lobbyists to reduce their influence, and create an independent ethics office in Congress to restore public faith. McCain has also labeled interrogations that mimic drowning as a form of torture, alienating the party faithful.

He's in favor of universal health care - not with a government-run bureaucracy, but by bringing costs under control and promoting competition on cost and quality of care. While he's fuzzy on the details of accomplishing that, the country does not need another tax-gobbling federal agency. McCain also wants to eliminate frivolous lawsuits and exorbitant damage awards, which would definitely reduce costs. He also plans to protect Medicare, Medicaid and retirees' private health benefits.

He favors comprehensive immigration reform and had been a sponsor of the 2007 bill that would have boosted border security and provided a way for millions of undocumented workers to earn legal status. Whether immigration will become a defining issue in the campaign remains to be seen.

With solid domestic policies and vital experience in foreign affairs, McCain is the right Republican candidate at the right time in history. Above all else, this nation needs a strong leader, one who can be trusted. John McCain is that kind of leader.

Friday, January 11, 2008

McCain insists he's 'always an underdog'

John McCain claimed the role of resident underdog Wednesday in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, despite his big win in the New Hampshire primary.

Adding to the most wide open presidential campaign in a half-century, associates of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg disclosed he had authorized polling and voter analysis in all 50 states in a possible precursor to an independent candidacy.

McCain made simultaneous appeals to independents and Republicans as he campaigned in Michigan for a victory that could drive former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney from the race.

The Republican establishment has never embraced me in my entire life. But I think we just proved that we can get the support of enough to win an election,'' he told reporters on his way to Grand Rapids. He added he would try to remind evangelical voters ''that my social conservative record has been consistent and unchanging.''

New Hampshire win or no, he said in Grand Rapids, ''I'm always an underdog. I always want to be called an underdog.''

Romney withdrew television advertising in South Carolina and Florida, two states with primaries later this month, despite telling supporters the race was just getting started and raising $1.5 million during the day for the campaign for the nomination. ''We feel the best strategy is to focus our paid messaging in Michigan,'' said his spokesman, Kevin Madden.

Monday, January 7, 2008

John McCain has best chance at presidency

Who will win the presidency? John McCain - hands down!

Americans aren't going to elect Barack Hussein Obama at a time when his name and Indonesian connection sound at odds with our current wars. And we won't elect Hillary Clinton; we're weary of the Bush and Clinton 20-year hold on the presidency. John Edwards may be electable, but he won't get the nomination.

Despite his charisma and qualifications, we aren't going to elect Mitt Romney. Public assertions aside, privately many still won't vote for a Mormon.

Rudy Giuliani did a grand job in New York post-9/11 but lacks the qualifications to be president. Baptist preacher Mike Huckabee is too evangelical for mainstream America.

That leaves our favorite son, Sen. John McCain.

McCain is qualified and respected for his heroic sacrifices. He's a little too liberal for some conservatives, and he's a little too conservative for some liberals, but overall he is the most acceptable to the greatest number of people.

Democrats should pray he doesn't get the nomination; Republicans should pray that he does. If he does, he will win.

Patricia Hance,Phoenix

Sen. McCain would make strongest GOP nominee

Eight years ago, endorsing U.S. Sen. John McCain in the Michigan Republican presidential primary, the Free Press said he was “an articulate hardliner on how the United States should lead the world” and the best candidate in a GOP field that included George W. Bush. McCain won Michigan, but that proved to be the high-water mark of a campaign that collapsed shortly thereafter, outspent and outmaneuvered by the Bush forces.

Eight years later, he is running again, and JOHN McCAIN is, again, the best candidate to carry the GOP banner into the fall. While the Free Press differs with McCain on a number of issues, the Arizona senator is a smarter, more tested and pragmatic leader who has shown since 2000 that he knows how to build bipartisan alliances around issues. He’s a straight shooter, sometimes to his detriment in the political world, where McCain also loses points for persistently championing needed campaign reforms and criticizing pork-barrel spending that benefits special interests.

McCain’s latest campaign faltered early in this overextended election season. But he had regrouped, and while polls do not show him as the GOP front-runner, they do consistently show that he fares best against any of the leading Democrats. That has to be a consideration for Republican voters with the party expected to lose more ground in Congress next year. McCain, with his appeal to independent voters, looks at this time like the best bet to keep the White House in GOP hands.

A former Navy pilot and Vietnam War prisoner of war whose personal ordeal and triumph make him the most inspiring candidate on either side, McCain is a passionate advocate for national service and volunteerism, and critical of the Bush administration for failing to rally Americans around their country after the horrors of 9/11. McCain said his decision to run again for president was driven by America’s need for stronger, more effective leadership against the threat of radical Islamic terrorists.

Also a vocal critic of the Bush war strategy in Iraq, McCain is alone among the candidates in calling for an increase in U.S. forces there to stop the violence and a long-term American presence to keep the peace. That’s not what the American people want to hear, but McCain’s assessment of the situation in Iraq appears to be the most realistic of anyone running.

McCain would close the U.S. prison for terror suspects at Guantanamo and move them into the military justice system. He has offered legislation with explicit bans on torture, an issue McCain is uniquely qualified among the candidates to address, and speaks eloquently about the importance of the United States regaining its moral leadership around the world.

McCain comes at health care first from a cost-cutting vantage; he is not an advocate for a national single-payer system. He supports more choice in education and favors federal subsidies to help displaced industrial workers maintain their standard of living while in retraining for new jobs. McCain said he would oppose any federal effort to divert Great Lakes water to growing or dry parts of the country.

As for the rest of the GOP field, Michigan-born former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has morphed into what he seems to believe is the perfect conservative Republican in pursuit of the presidential nomination. He says his positions have changed with knowledge and experience — or perhaps with a sense of opportunity in this first election since 1952 with neither an incumbent president nor vice president in the field.

Certainly Romney has been a capable manager of every challenge he has ever faced, and his Michigan roots might help a state that surely needs more friends in Washington, but who knows what Romney might morph into in the White House?

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee has the right ideas on health care — streamlining the system, tax credits for low-income households, deductions for insurance costs — but his “fair tax” plan to replace income and payroll taxes with a national sales tax of 23% portends fiscal chaos. The sales tax rate would likely have to be far higher, too, to maintain the government.

Former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson is a thinking person’s conservative, but he flatly fails to inspire at a time when the nation needs some inspiration. Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani seems temperamentally ill-suited to the White House. U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, the former Libertarian presidential candidate, may rock the GOP boat with his Internet-based support but would be a disaster as the standard-bearer for the party.

Although he would be 72 on Inauguration Day and the oldest man ever to take the oath, John McCain appears vigorous and up to the enormous challenges facing the next president. He would be a formidable candidate for a party that needs one, and voters in the Jan. 15 Michigan Republican presidential primary should say so by casting a ballot for John McCain.

original post cited from the Detroit Free Press at this link.

The McCain comeback

Another improbable chapter in a remarkable life story
Jan. 6, 2008 12:00 AM

The presidential primary race is a long, long campaign that has yet to see its first official primary, the Iowa caucuses notwithstanding.

But, for John McCain, now the presumptive frontrunner among Republicans, the race must seem not merely long, but eternal. How many political lives has the Arizona senator expended since mid-2007?

The McCain campaign saga - of soaring last spring, crash-landing last summer and lofting once more toward the heavens in the depths of winter - is perhaps the most implausible and melodramatic story of the entire implausible, melodramatic contest.

Conservative columnist Rich Lowry called McCain's 2008 comeback "a saga worthy of Tolstoy."

Is that what it is? A political epic masterpiece? A look back at the events of last July tells us one of two stories. Either it tells us a story about the media's capacity for wildly overdramatizing the imminent demise of McCain's once-formidable presidential campaign. Or it tells us yet another emblematic tale of John McCain's ability to persevere under circumstances that might crush a lesser man. Unlike Napoleon, McCain appears to be besting General Winter.

Early in July 2007, the McCain campaign went broke. Over the course of a heady and, yes, headstrong spring '07 march toward the Republican nomination for president, the McCain campaign spent money like it had $100 million in the bank.

Indeed, McCain's campaign managers thought they would have $100 million by early summer. Instead, lagging GOP campaign contributions combined with their spendthrift ways left the McCain camp with just $2 million, a pittance by Clinton-Obama-Romney standards.

On July 2, the campaign laid off 50 workers. Then, on July 10, the deluge of top strategists commenced. Terry Nelson, McCain's day-to-day director, left. And, perhaps most devastating of all, chief strategist John Weaver, a confidante of the senator since 1999 who was considered McCain's answer to Karl Rove, walked out the door with Nelson.

The campaign bloodletting prompted much-respected political analyst, Charlie Cook, to tell The Republic's Dan Nowicki that "the physicians have left the room and now it's the executors of the will taking over. This isn't about strategizing or organizing or messaging, it's now about paying off the bills and sort of winding down."

Another noted analyst, Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia, said the Arizona senator's campaign "has sunk like a rock."

The Times of London predicted McCain could pull out of the race entirely "by early autumn." Indeed, so many media were issuing McCain campaign epitaphs that the Wall Street Journal editorial page felt compelled to observe that the event "is giving the media who once loved him a chance to bury his Presidential campaign."

Then, something changed. Actually one very big event, the war in Iraq, began to change for the better. McCain, the most consistent advocate for fighting terrorists in Iraq with sufficient troops to do the job, rose steadily in the polls just as prospects for peace in that troubled nation improved.

Which suggests the one aspect of the McCain saga that always stayed the same: the candidate's near-mythic capacity to stay the course through very bad times.

So, he lives. And, for the time at least, he thrives. On the eve of the New Hampshire primary, the headline writers no longer concoct funeral dirges. Instead, they read like this one: "McCain: The Republican Heir?"

We'll see. From what we hear, coronation celebrations beat funerals any day.

The only Republican candidate with comprehensive global warming plan

The only Republican candidate with comprehensive global warming plan. League of Conservation Voters calls him a "leader" on climate issues; Republicans for Environmental Protection, national conservation organization, endorsed him.

Helped introduce in 2003 one of first Senate bills on climate change. Bill was reintroduced in '05 and '07; goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 65 percent by 2050. Would set up cap-and-trade system, use some funds from emissions permit auction for nuclear power.

Prefers "profit-motive, free-enterprise-system-driven green technologies." Supports use of cleaner coal technology if it reduces greenhouse gas emissions and includes carbon capture and storage. Backs higher vehicle fuel efficiency standards but sets no target. Supports alternative bio-fuels, but not subsidies for ethanol.

Opposes drilling in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Supports protecting national parkes.

"Ensuring clean air, safe and healthy water, sustainable land use, ample greenspace —and the faithful care and management of our natural treasures, including our proud National Park System — is a patriotic responsibility."

Friday, January 4, 2008

Alive! The John McCain Story


John McCain took home a modest fourth place finish in the Iowa caucuses, garnering 13 percent of the Republican vote. But he may be as big a winner as Mike Huckabee. Huckabee's knockout of Mitt Romney in the caucuses was exactly what the McCain campaign, which spent little time or money in Iowa, needed from the state. McCain decided several months ago to stake his entire campaign on New Hampshire, where he is ahead of Romney (who governed next door in Massachusetts) in the most recent polls. Now that Romney has been severely wounded in Iowa, and with New Hampshire's Republicans historically cool towards Christian conservatives, McCain is suddenly poised to win big on Jan. 8 — and, perhaps, beyond.

That McCain is even in the race — let alone in a position to compete for the GOP nomination — hardly seemed possible just a few months ago, when his once front-running campaign nearly collapsed in debt and chaos. "The people who mishandled his campaign did him an enormous favor — they blew up a campaign that couldn't win," says an unaffiliated Republican consultant. "They destroyed his bases and mangled his supply lines. They left him only the option of falling back on himself and his instincts to fight a guerrilla-style campaign. And that's the only way he can win."

The Fall

Whether that's true is still several primaries away from being determined, but it's undeniable that McCain bombed as an establishment candidate.

In early 2007, McCain — anointed by the press and the party as the GOP front-runner — set out to run a national campaign with a huge staff, big-name endorsements and all the expensive trappings of a well-funded, unstoppable machine. It was the complete opposite of his famously scrappy 2000 run, when he emerged from the low single digits to beat the establishment choice, George W. Bush, by 18 points in New Hampshire — only to lose the fight for the nomination in the weeks thereafter. McCain had placed all his energy and scarce resources into New Hampshire in 2000 because that was all he could do. In 2008, he planned to play a bigger game.

But McCain appeared spooked by his own strategy. On the stump he was cautious, scripted, and far too focused on ingratiating himself with all the groups and special interests that by and large, never trusted him to begin with. Behind the scenes, his campaign was torn by strategic chaos and riven by feuds between consultants charging massive retainers.

By mid-July, McCain's funding had dried up and much of his staff was either let go or walked out. Many political professionals, even those close to him, assumed he was staying in the race merely out of pride — or because he needed to raise enough money to pay off the campaign's considerable debts. His candidacy had become a textbook example of how not to run.

The Comeback

Mike Dennehy can pinpoint the moment he realized McCain was no longer a dead candidate walking. It was the weekend before Thanksgiving, when 100 people turned up to hear McCain speak at a coffee shop in the tiny town of Colebrook in the northern reaches of New Hampshire. "That's a lot of people in Colebrook," says Dennehy, McCain's national political director (the town's population is under 2,500). "But it didn't hit me until two hours later when we had a town hall meeting in Haverhill. There were 200 people — a good crowd — but most importantly, people came up to him afterward and said, 'You've got my vote.' It was the first time that had happened all year."

What turned it? Partly, McCain's refusal to give up — the innate stubbornness of a man who has experienced far grimmer moments than a lost election. It helped, too, that the surge in Iraq, which McCain loudly supported, began to produce positive results, which in turn removed the war from the front pages. And McCain certainly wasn't hurt by the spitball match between Romney and Huckabee in Iowa.

But there was also an unmistakable reversion to form. Unburdened of the expectations that came with being the front-runner, McCain started enjoying himself again — pushing his 71-year-old body as hard as any of his younger rivals. He gassed up the Straight Talk Express and began touring New Hampshire the way he did in 2000, holding town hall after town hall — talking to, joking with and occasionally sparring with anyone who cared to show up. "He put this campaign on his back," says Mark Salter, the top aide who co-wrote all of McCain's books with the Senator. "He went out there and worked. Nobody puts on the show he puts on. He gets hard commits. Obama gets massive rallies. But McCain just wins them, one guy at a time. It adds up." Says Scott Reed, who ran Bob Dole's campaign in 1996: "McCain has lived off the earth better than anybody."

But will 2008 just be a replay of 2000 for McCain? If he wins New Hampshire, will he have the support and the resources to keep on winning — in Michigan and South Carolina, and then on to Florida and the Super Tuesday states?

As Huckabee and McCain have already shown, almost any outcome seems possible in this unusual election cycle. Huckabee could use his personal charm to expand his appeal beyond his evangelical base. Mitt Romney, with a personal fortune he's shown himself more than willing to tap, could bounce back, challenge McCain in New Hampshire and go on to wage a war of attrition for the nomination. And Rudy Giuliani could — as his campaign planned long ago — impose order on a chaotic primary season, win Florida and then cruise to victory in California, New York and other big states on Feb. 5.

Or maybe, after rising from near political death, John McCain will keep the surprises coming.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

McCain comes back from dead

Republican race given a new edge as John McCain comes back from dead
Tim Reid in Des Moines and Tom Baldwin in Ames
Jan 3, 2008

A newly competitive John McCain tore up his campaign schedule and raced to Iowa yesterday with new polls signalling one of the most remarkable political comebacks of recent times.

Mr McCain, who had largely abandoned Iowa after polls showed him as an also-ran there, returned on the eve of its caucuses having suddenly leapfrogged into third place. His resurgence in the “Hawkeye state” comes as two new polls show him overtaking Rudy Giuliani as the national Republican front-runner.

Mr McCain, who was largely written off last summer after his campaign fell apart, hopes that a strong third-place finish in Iowa will give him unexpected momentum when New Hampshire votes five days later, a state where he has opened up a small lead over Mitt Romney, his chief rival, for the first time.

Mr McCain, seeking at 71 to become the oldest first-term president in US history, had planned to campaign in New Hampshire while his rivals tore across Iowa on the final full day of campaigning before caucus night.

But with the Des Moines Register poll placing him third, he abandoned the “Granite state” and began a 30-hour bus tour of Iowa, speaking in diners, ice-cream parlours and school gymnasiums. As he arrived, a Pew national poll showed him on 22 per cent, two points ahead of Mr Giuliani, the longtime front-runner. In an extraordinary admission, he also told a voter that if elected, he might just serve one term in the White House, because of his age.

Mr McCain’s political resurrection is the latest twist in the highly volatile Republican race. Mr Romney, who has spent millions of his own fortune to establish himself as the unassailable Republican candidate in Iowa and New Hampshire, is battling Mike Huckabee for first place in Iowa, and Mr McCain for supremacy in New Hampshire. Both are too close to call.

Mr Romney, seeking to become the first Mormon president, has clawed back to parity with Mr Huckabee in Iowa after losing his lead in November. He has unleashed a series of attack adverts against the former Arkansas Governor, who has not helped himself in recent days after several stumbles on foreign policy, his greatest vulnerability.

Mr Huckabee, continuing his sometimes freewheeling campaign, spent Tuesday campaigning with Chuck Norris, the former world karate champion and Hollywood action hero. Last night he left Iowa and flew to California to record an appearance with Jay Leno on his Tonight show.

Before he left, Mr Huckabee, a Baptist minister, appeared before a meeting of sympathetic bloggers, telling them they were “doing the Lord’s work” for promoting his once-long-shot campaign on the internet.

He then headed to a rally for 2,000 people at a nightclub, where he grabbed a bass guitar and, with his rock’n’roll band Capitol Offense, belted out numbers such as Twist and Shout and Blue Suede Shoes.

At a pizza parlour in Sergeant Bluff, he underlined the importance of turning out support, saying: “Don’t go alone. Take people with you. Fill up your car. Rent a van. Hijack your church’s bus, whatever you’ve got to do to get people to the caucus who are going to vote for me.”

Mr Huckabee is relying on the energy of Iowa’s evangelical Christians, who make up 40 per cent of Republican caucus-goers. Mr Romney, meanwhile, is relying on brutal efficiency and the sophisticated ground operation he has spent months, and tens of millions of dollars, building.

In appearances across Iowa, he adopted a more positive tone after the recent attacks on Mr Huckabee and Mr McCain, although the bitter exchanges continued. Mr Huckabee’s campaign manager said in one interview that he wanted to knock Mr Romney’s teeth out. McCain aides continued to mock Mr Romney for suggesting that presidents do not need foreign policy experience.

Thirty miles away, at a rally in Ames, Mr Romney made frequent references to his wife of 38 years and five sons. “We will do our best to show people around the world that there are pretty good folk in the White House and this is how families – moms and dads – are supposed to work,” he said. He suggested that his family would not sully the White House, and that the Clintons did.

Mr Giuliani is trying to defy history by ignoring the early states and focusing on the delegate-rich later contests. On caucus day in Iowa he will campaign in Florida. Fred Thompson, the former senator and Law & Order star, is hoping for a third-place finish in Iowa to boost his candidacy.

McCain takes national Republican lead: Pew poll
16 hours ago

WASHINGTON (AFP) — Republican Senator John McCain has moved into the national lead for his party's nomination for the presidency, according to a poll released Wednesday on the eve of the first voting.

The Pew Research Center's nationwide survey gave McCain 22 percent support among Republican voters, two percent ahead of former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, who had led the Republican field by a wide margin for most of 2007.

Surging into a close third was ex-Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who is leading polls to win the Republican caucuses in Iowa on Thursday, the first state to vote on candidates for the November 2008 presidential election.

In March Giuliani topped the broad Republican field nationally with 35 percent support in the Pew poll, against 24 percent for Arizona Senator McCain and only two percent for Huckabee.

And in September McCain, considered a moderate Republican was being counted out of the race when his support dropped to 16 percent and Giuliani still held 33 percent.

However, the three frontrunners still fall into the five-percent margin of error in the poll of 471 Republican voters around the country.

And polls ahead of the individual state caucuses and primaries show sharply different readings from national polls.

Among Democratic candidates nationally, Senator Hillary Clinton remains the frontrunner, Pew said, with 46 percent support, compared to Senator Barack Obama's 26 percent backing and 14 percent for ex-senator John Edwards.

John McCain: The Old Warhorse

January 03, 2008
John McCain: The Old Warhorse
By Victor Davis Hanson

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., early on was thought to be the frontrunner for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. But by summer 2007, he had been written off as a has-been. His poorly funded, lackadaisical campaign nearly ensured that he was put out to pasture before the primary races even began.

While he faded, the media went gaga first over Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill, then former Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., and most recently former Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Ark. Yet now the nearly forgotten McCain is surging back.

Compared to the flashy Obama or mannequin-like former Sen. John Edwards, D.-N.C., McCain still looks tired and pale on the trail - except when he nearly loses his explosive temper and turns beet-red.

McCain has survived malignant melanoma and at times his face still appears craggy and swollen. His shoulders seem frozen, the result of years of torture as a prisoner of war held by North Vietnamese communists. If he wins in November, McCain, at 72, would be the oldest to enter the presidency - and, unlike Ronald Reagan, he will look it.

Liberals once flirted with McCain as a maverick when he ran in the primaries against the more conservative George W. Bush in 2000 - but then they also assumed that Vice President Al Gore would naturally succeed Bill Clinton in the general election.

Now, though, they have little good to say about him. McCain never gave up on the unpopular Iraq war, loudly calling for both the appointment of Gen. David Petraeus and a surge of additional troops. His promises to cut spending rather than to raise taxes aren't exactly endearing to Democrats.

Conservatives can't even count all the ways they have soured on him. Libertarians were furious that the McCain-Feingold campaign-financing law impinged on unfettered political expression. McCain never supported Bush's massive tax cuts that spurred the economy. But he did team with Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., to craft a comprehensive immigration bill that included de facto amnesty to illegal aliens.

The Christian Right opposed his support for human-embryo stem-cell research. On issues like global warming and shutting down the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, McCain has sounded like Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., or Kennedy.

Why, then, has this old warhorse trotted back into the Republican race?

There are a number of good reasons that transcend ideology, and they loom larger every month of this topsy-turvy campaign.

First, in a campaign year of crass political reinventions, McCain does not flip-flop. Instead, he seems to enjoy telling people what they don't want to hear. Apparently, at his age, and after what he went through in Vietnam, there is no reason to begin trimming the truth now.

To those more liberal, McCain insists that the surge is working and we will secure Iraq - only to explain to conservatives why we can't, either practically or morally, deport all 11 million illegal aliens. He seems more opposed to pork barrel and deficit spending than doctrinaire conservatives.

Second, McCain has the most diverse experience of any of the candidates in either party. Sens. Obama and Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., may bicker over whether being first lady or growing up in Indonesia constitutes the better foreign-policy background. But no one would question McCain's far greater breadth of service: carrier aviator, combat pilot, wounded veteran, tortured while a prisoner of war for five and a half years, U.S. congressman and senator for a combined quarter-century, 2000 presidential candidate. And the list only goes on.

Third, we are still in a war on several fronts - as we were reminded recently by the assassination, likely by al-Qaida, of pro-American Pakistani Benazir Bhutto. Many of the other inexperienced candidates fumbled in their initial reactions to Bhutto's murder.

Obama ludicrously associated her death with the Iraq war. Huckabee, in Jimmy Carter fashion, apologized to Pakistan for the assassination - although he did not explain why. Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson demanded that Gen. Musharraf step down - as if we can snap our fingers and choose nuclear Pakistan's leaders.

McCain in contrast kept his cool. He candidly admitted that the tragic loss of Bhutto was a setback to American democratic objectives, while reminding us that a nuclear Islamist Pakistan is unstable and doesn't present America with any good choices. In this war, having a veteran fighter and savvy old statesman as commander-in-chief makes a lot of sense.

I don't know whether plain-speaking John McCain will win the presidency. But so far he's proved the most experienced of the candidates, and he's run the most principled and honest of the campaigns. Other candidates may be younger, better financed and more charismatic; none has more earned America's trust.

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and author, most recently, of "A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War." You can reach him by e-mailing

McCain's bet on N.H. paying off

NASHUA, NH - With the state virtually to himself, Sen. John McCain appears on the verge of seizing control of New Hampshire's Republican primary as he rides momentum that may have been partially fueled by the decision of his main rivals to focus their resources elsewhere in recent days.

McCain, who won a dramatic primary victory here eight years ago over George W. Bush, made a decision to spend the bulk of his time after the Christmas holidays on the Granite State, while a key rival, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, opted to pull out all the stops for Thursday's Iowa caucuses.

Another top GOP candidate, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani made a feint late in the fall towards competing in New Hampshire. But he has subsequently deemphasized the state while placing a major wager on the Jan. 29 primary in Florida, where he has been spending valuable campaign time.

The result, according to GOP activists here, has been an erosion of Giuliani's support in New Hampshire, with McCain reaping the benefits. Two polls released on Wednesday show McCain making major gains among likely GOP voters in Tuesday's primary, while Giuliani's support slackens.

Perhaps in an effort to stem that erosion, Giuliani made a quick campaign stop here Wednesday afternoon with another event scheduled for Thursday morning before flying on to Florida.

In one survey by CNN in partnership with WMUR, a local television station, McCain is now tied with Romney, with each claiming 29 percent of the vote. The poll was conducted by the University of New Hampshire. While the poll showed McCain picking up 10 percentage points during December, Giuliani's support dropped by 7 points.

In a second poll by Suffolk University and WHDH-TV, McCain is shown as leading Romney, 31 percent to 25 percent.

-- Finlay Lewis, Copley News Service

On New Year's Eve, McCain methodically worked his way through a demanding schedule with five meet-and-greet events. The next day, a holiday for most Americans, he braved a snowstorm to shake hands in a diner in Tilton. That caused at least one longtime Democrat, John Patrick Kelly, a retired Boston firefighter, to declare he just might vote for McCain on Tuesday.

"Man, he came through this mess," said Kelly, now a Tilton resident. "You gotta admit it: he's a pretty stand up guy."

A few booths away, Robert Haynes, pastor of an evangelical church in Manchester, reacted in much the same way. He said he was still weighing a vote for Romney but that the scales were shifting in McCain's favor.

"I'm glad to meet John face to face - to thank him for supporting the troops," said Haynes, a National Guardsman who was deployed to the Persian Gulf for the 1991 war to expel Iraq from Kuwait and then in 2004 to Iraq as a platoon sergeant for an MP unit.

"I can respect a man who stands by his convictions, regardless of the polls," said Haynes, 40. "That's a quality every president needs to have."

Pollster Dick Bennett called McCain's decision to concentrate on New Hampshire "brilliant," and added, "He had this magic eight years ago. He didn't lose it. But people are now paying attention to him again. He is in his element."

Said Fergus Cullen, chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party, "McCain has been here, working his butt off -- doing tons of town hall meetings and speaking to thousands of voters -- and in the process dominating local earned media coverage as well at a time when other candidates were by and large out of state."

Posted by Michael Smolens January 2, 2008 03:22 PM