Monday, August 27, 2007

Reuters: In SC, "McCain's straight talk on issues alive and well"

On August 14, Steve Holland of Reuters had the following to say on Senator McCain's trip to South Carolina - here are excerpts:

By Steve Holland


CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate John McCain's "Straight Talk Express" bus may be off the road because of money woes but his tough talking on foreign policy is still on track.

On a two-day swing through the early voting state of South Carolina, McCain was feisty in answering some skeptical questions from voters he will need for a political comeback after suffering a series of setbacks in his bid for the
presidency in November 2008.

The senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee has been criticized for being too controlled by advisers and losing his focus. With his stripped-down campaign after the departure of top aides and little money in the bank, he is basically a candidate alone with a microphone.

The Arizona senator began the year as one of the Republican front-runners but has fallen behind rivals Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney. He has plotted a path back based on strong showings in the early voting states, including in South Carolina, which he lost to George W. Bush in his ultimately unsuccessful 2000 bid for the Republican nomination.

His straight talk now equates to tough talk, some of it distancing himself from Bush's policies. He was skeptical about Russian President Vladimir Putin, who Bush wined and dined last month at the Bush family compound on the Maine coast. "When I look into Mr. Putin's eyes, I see three letters: a 'K,' and a 'G' and a 'B,'" McCain said, referring to the Russian leader's KGB spy tenure and mocking Bush's famous
statement that he had looked into Putin's eyes and got a sense of his soul. "Is he trying to make problems for the United States of America? Absolutely, yes," McCain said...

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New West (Colo.) - "McCain Finds Friendly Crowd in Aspen"

The publication New West has this report on Senator McCain's appearance in Aspen, Colorado. It was published on August 20:

By David Frey, 8-20-07

Sen. John McCain looks at home with this Aspen, Colo., crowd. His collar undone, his jacket open, he stands under the tent on the manicured grounds of the Aspen Institute and turns the weather – another hot mountain afternoon – into a campaign issue.

“Twenty years ago, the temperature in this tent would have been 20 degrees cooler,” McCain says. “The fact is, climate change is real.”

This is McCain’s crowd. Like him, they are mostly white, white-haired and wealthy. Many are educated, personally conservative, politically moderate, and they respond with exuberant applause at times when many wouldn’t. Stick it out in Iraq. Applause. Hands off the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Applause. McCain’s popularity here may explain why the Arizona Republican presidential candidate seems less and less popular anywhere else. As anybody who has spent any time here knows, Aspen feels far removed from the real world.

“I used to be a more conservative Republican but now I’m more middle of the road,” says Aspenite Jim Weaver, who likes McCain so much, he voted for him in the 2000 primary even though McCain had already dropped out.

“I wouldn’t be that much in favor if I didn’t think he had the best chance to win
the general election,” Weaver says.

But McCain’s Straight Talk Express is losing its steam, in part because of that straight talk. McCain has staked his ground as an independent Westerner, not afraid to break from his party and follow his gut. It’s a winning formula that saw lots of Democrats – and lots of Western Democrats – ride into office on a centrist path not far from McCain’s own brand of politics.

If he hoped to capture the votes of independents, though, his staunch support of the Iraq war (he calls the fight of Islamic extremism the top foreign policy issue) is beguiling at a time when Americans are increasingly becoming critical of the war. His support of immigration reform (he calls it the top domestic issue) didn’t win him much love either.

“I have never seen an issue that has inflamed the passion of the American people the way immigration reform has. Never.” McCain says. “We have never received death
threats like I have received,” he says. The two issues have sparked groundswells of emotions that a candidate like McCain, who carries a sort-of third-party appeal, could play into. But McCain has avoided the populist card.

Instead, his hand includes issues that play well in Aspen, a town with storied reputation as a bastion of liberalism that is turning more and more conservative. As million-dollar homes see more zeroes added onto their price tags, a wealthier and wealthier set is settling here and visiting here. But these are Aspen Republicans, not Branson, Mo., Republicans. They mix traditional Republican values like national security and fiscal responsibility with some traditionally Democratic issues, like the environment. McCain’s moderate stance fits in well.

“I don’t consider myself part of the Republican base anymore,” says Vickie Waters, of Greenwich, Conn., who was visiting Aspen for a few weeks when she stopped to see McCain. “"It’s been hijacked by the religious right. It’s not really my thing.” Like McCain, she cares about national security. Like McCain, she wants to see immigration reform. She’s been sponsoring an employee to get her green card, Waters says. “It’s a laborious process.”

When McCain talks of fighting Islamic extremism, combating global warming and curbing
federal spending, he finds himself in front of a friendly crowd. And they don’t shy away when he strays from safe territory. Sounding hawkish on Iraq: “I’m confident we will win. I’m confident we will never surrender.” Waxing green on ANWR: “I think there are some parts of the American wilderness, like the Grand Canyon and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, that we don’t need to drill in.” Calling for immigration reform: “There’s a human rights issue as well.” In conservative circles, that could prompt scorn. Not here.

“I thank you, and I’ve already sent money to your campaign,” says one man, who pressed McCain on immigration. “I hope you’re not asking for it back,” McCain responds. He isn’t, but that hasn’t been the response across the country. If Americans are looking for a moderate choice, if Western straight-shooting is a winning formula, McCain’s own particular brand hasn’t been; not so far.

Maybe you can chalk it up to the curse of his home state. Barry Goldwater, Morris Udall, Bruce Babbitt – they all lost their bid for the presidency, he notes.
“Arizona may be the only state in America that mothers don’t tell their children they may grow up to be president of the United States,” he says.

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The British newspaper The Guardian picked up the AP story with quotes about the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Here's the excerpt from Senator McCain:
``I have said for a long time that I thought the president would be best served if the attorney general resigned so I think it's the right thing to do.'' - Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Republican presidential candidate.


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View from across the Atlantic - The Times (UK) on McCain and the 2008 campaign

The view of the election, from across the Atlantic, can be found in this article from The Times in the United Kingdom. Here are excerpts pertaining to Senator McCain and the overall 2008 campaign, from Tim Reid's article on Monday, August 27:

Countdown begins for real in America's first billion-dollar presidential
campaign


Although the race to succeed President Bush has been in full swing for a year, Labor Day is when things really start to get serious...


In five days most Americans will begin enjoying their long Labor Day weekend - the traditional end of summer - in the usual way: barbecuing, a final trip to the beach and watching sport.

A strange group of nearly 20, however, will fan out across Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two states in the presidential nominating process. They will trudge through
cornfields and scamper from diners to town halls and school gymnasiums. They will lavish praise on their audiences and tell voters in each state - two of the whitest and least populated in America - why they are the most acute political judges in the nation.

Labor Day also marks the traditional start of the presidential primary campaign, when voters choose their Democratic and Republican candidates. Although the race to succeed President Bush has in effect been in full swing for almost a year, this is the moment when many voters begin to focus on the candidates and the issues. Already the longest and most expensive campaign in US history - it will be the first $1 billion election - this phase will also likely have one of the earliest finishes. With a series of big states voting on February 5, or “Tsunami Tuesday”, America is probably only 20 weeks away from knowing who its two main candidates will be.

The 2008 race is the first since 1928 in which both parties have genuinely open primary contests, with neither an incumbent president nor vice-president running.
Although Hillary Clinton, on the Democratic side, and Rudy Giuliani, on the Republican, have solidified significant leads over their rivals in their parties’ national polls, they are far from sure bets for the nomination, let alone the White House. As things stand, there are still six or seven candidates who could conceivably become the next commander-in-chief.

History, and the current political environment, weigh heavily against the Republicans. In four out of five times in the post Second World War era - 1960, 1968, 1976 and 2000 - the party holding the White House for two consecutive terms has failed to win a third. The Iraq war and President Bush’s low approval ratings have also left Republicans dispirited and Democrats resurgent. In 2002 party identification split evenly between the two parties. Now only 35 per cent of Americans call themselves Republican - compared with 50 per cent who say that they are Democrat.

The leading Democrat contenders - Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards - have raised considerably more money than their leading Republican rivals: Mr Giuliani, Mitt Romney, John McCain and Fred Thompson. However, in head-to-head match-ups with the Republicans, although all three Democrats win, they do so by narrow margins. Mrs Clinton fares the worst. She is in a statistical tie with Mr Giuliani and just ahead of Mr McCain. This is feeding Democratic fears that although she is a prohibitive favourite for her party’s nomination, she will prove too unpopular and polarising to win a general election. She has the highest “negatives” - unfavourable ratings - of any candidate.

The match-ups also suggest that, despite Republican troubles, 2008 could be another close election. There will still be roughly 12 key states that Mr Bush and John Kerry, his 2004 challenger, split between them with winning margins of less than 5 per cent. They will again be pivotal. If the “surge” in Iraq achieves real progress, the anti-Republican dynamic could be reversed significantly...

The Republican contest, by contrast, is impossible to predict. All the candidates have significant flaws. Mr Giuliani, the former New York mayor, has confounded pundits by maintaining a solid lead nationally. But his positions on abortion and gay marriage are at odds with conservatives, a key constituency in the primary campaign. He is also in danger of running on a single issue: his widely praised performance in the days after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks. But he is well funded and in the best position to benefit in the nationwide multiple primaries of “Tsunami Tuesday”.

Mr Romney is running as the true conservative candidate. But as Governor in a heavily
Democratic Massachusetts, he was pro-abortion and socially liberal. His recent pro-life, anti-gay marriage conversion has brought charges of rank opportunism. But with a personal wealth of $250 million (£125 million), he has invested heavily in an early-state strategy and, although trailing in national Republican surveys, is well ahead in Iowa and New Hampshire. He has gone a long way to dispel concerns about his Mormonism. He has raised more than his rivals. He is a hugely successful venture capitalist who rescued the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. He desperately wants to be president. He is the Republican most on the rise.

Mr McCain, the party’s frontrunner in January, suffered a near-fatal implosion to his campaign earlier this summer. His funds are low. He has lost all his senior advisers. He has been greatly damaged by his support for immigration reform - anathema to conservatives - and his support for Mr Bush’s Iraq strategy. But he is still roughly third with Mr Romney in national polls. He is a tough man, surviving five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. He cannot be written off.

Mr Thompson, the former senator and Law & Order star, is expected to finally declare his candidacy next week. As a Southerner and a conservative, many on the Right, unhappy with the current field, hope that he will be the true heir to Ronald Reagan who will save America from a Clinton restoration. Without even declaring that he is polling a healthy second behind Mr Giuliani. There are, however, worries that he lacks the fire in the belly - and the in-frastructure - to sustain a challenge. A possible entry by Newt Gingrich, the former House Speaker, this year will shake up the already volatile Republican race even further...

One thing is clear: US presidential politics is a mercurial and brutal affair where conventional wisdom is often turned on its head. Michael Dukakis warned his party this week how quickly things can change. He should know. In July 1988 the former Democratic nominee held a 17-point lead over George Bush Sr. Three months later he lost in a landslide.

War chests of the hopefuls

Republicans

Rudy Giuliani, the former Mayor of New York City, raised $43.9 million (£21.9 million) during the first six months of 2007

Mitt Romney, multimillionaire Mormon who also lent his campaign $8.9 million from his pocket. $35 million

John McCain, the Vietnam War veteran who had to fire staff because his campaign is short on funds, has raised $24.3 million...

You can read the full text of the original article here. You can contact Campaignia at publisher@campaignia.org.

The New Yorker: McCain "is still an either/or kind of guy" and "regrets the inexorable movement of earlier and earlier primaries"

In the September 3 issue of The New Yorker, Senator McCain was interviewed for the purpose of promoting Hard Call. Here are some excerpts from the article, titled "Escapist Express":

Politics is all sports metaphors,” John McCain said the other day. “It’s unfortunately overwhelmed with clich├ęs from sports. It’s sickening, almost.” ...

... he spoke with regret about “the inexorable movement of earlier and earlier primaries,” coupled with the compressed schedule of primary season. “You could never have a Hart-Mondale race anymore, where Hart won the early primaries and Mondale came back to defeat him,” he said...

[Note from Campaignia: McCain was referring to the protracted battle between Senator Gary Hart of Colorado - a good friend of McCain's - and former Vice President Walter Mondale for the 1984 Democratic presidential nomination, during which the primaries lasted for months. They became friends while McCain was serving as the Navy liaison officer on Capitol Hill, prior to his first election to the U.S. House in 1982. Hart, in fact, was an usher at McCain's wedding to Cindy Hensley, according to McCain's 2002 book, Worth the Fighting For, co-authored by long-time aide Mark Salter.]


The hard calls discussed in McCain’s book are an
eclectic and decidedly historical bunch: Solzhenitsyn’s decision to publish “The Gulag Archipelago,” Gertrude Ederle’s determination to swim the English Channel,
Reinhold Niebuhr’s conversion from pacifism. Still, an obvious contemporary issue came to mind. “Is Iraq a hard call?” he said. “I think it’s not that hard, because I have had no doubt. It hasn’t been a struggle within me.”
...


Bud Selig’s treatment of Barry Bonds was much the same. “I would have done one of two things: not go or stand up and applaud,” he said. McCain is still an either /or kind of guy...


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