Power and Politics - I am Not the Yellow Peril

The life and times of an Asian American activist who tells all the truth (and dishes news and analysis) but with a leftwards slant.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Death knell for the McCain campaign?

Well, first Senator John McCain (R-AZ)'s presidential campaign claims that they won't make their fund raising goals, despite him having hired all the top political staff way back when. While this might just be an expectations ploy, there's no arguing that his stubborn clinging to the Dubya playbook and failed Iraq War policies hangs on his poll numbers like a dead weight.

Now we get confirmation that McCain's chief of staff, Rudy Weaver (who is now a Chief political advisor to the campaign) approached top Democrats about switching parties in 2001. (Hat tip political wire.) This had been rumored but never before confirmed. As reported in The Hill (read the whole thing, it's really good):

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.

Democrats had contacted Jeffords and then-Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.) in the early months of 2001 about switching parties, but in McCain’s case, they said, it was McCain’s top strategist who came to them.

At the end of their March 31, 2001 lunch at a Chinese restaurant in Bethesda, Md., Downey said Weaver asked why Democrats hadn’t asked McCain to switch parties.

Downey, a well-connected lobbyist, said he was stunned.

“You’re really wondering?” Downey said he told Weaver. “What do you mean you’re wondering?”

“Well, if the right people asked him,” Weaver said, according to Downey, adding that he responded, “The calls will be made. Who do you want?” Weaver this week said he did have lunch with Downey that spring, pointing out that he and Downey “are very good friends.”

Former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle also confirms meetings with McCain to discuss committee assignments:

Daschle noted that McCain at that time was frustrated with the Bush administration as a result of his loss to George W. Bush in the 2000 Republican primary.

Daschle said that throughout April and May of 2001, he and McCain “had meetings and conversations on the floor and in his office, I think in mine as well, about how we would do it, what the conditions would be. We talked about committees and his seniority … [A lot of issues] were on the table.”

Here's the money line:

McCain consistently shot down the rumors, though Weaver acknowledged this week that the senator did talk to Democrats about leaving the GOP.

Weaver disputes the Democrats' version of things, though, saying that he was approached by top Dems. Nonethless, after Jim Jeffords defected from the GOP, talks with Chafee and McCain ended.

McCain’s links to Democrats were so clear that Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) — now a close ally of McCain — publicly criticized him in the early part of 2001 for keeping “unusual company.”

Jeffords pulled the trigger on May 24, 2001, throwing control of the Senate to Democrats. Chafee and McCain then broke off their discussions with Democratic leaders, according to Democrats.

Downey said he talked to Weaver at least once a week during McCain’s discussions with Democrats, asking him questions like, “What is the state of play?” and “Where are we?”

“Weaver was very active in this,” Downey said, “None of this happens without Weaver.”

Damn. I'm not sure how he intends to get past the primary with this one. Weaver has since become a Democrat, and is doing a poor job of protecting his former boss. For the Christian conservative base, this has got to be the last straw. Although this piece of info elevates him for the general, it's doesn't really matter because as hard as he sticks to the Bush 2000 playbook, Steve Schmidt can't spin his way out of this one. The lingering doubts will always be there when the voters go to the polls. And yeah, bipartisanship or the semblance of such might get Ahr-nuld elected in California, but the California Republicans are like Connecticut Democrats.

This type of hesitation will not play well in South Carolina, and it's no wonder that McCain is doing poorly in primary polls in his own state.

Look at how poorly former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack was doing in his own backyard, and how quickly he dropped out. McCain knows he has more than that going for him, so he'll stay in it for the long haul, but don't be surprised if the general exasperation amongst the Republican base leads to someone outside the top tier of soft GOP candidates (McCain, Guiliani, Romney) to someone much more palatable - think Huckabee or Brownback. Their alliance and allegiance to the rightwing evangelical movement is unquestioned, and unlike the top tier, there's no photos of them in drag, blue state ties, or repudiation of Jerry Falwell which have to be recanted.

Me, I'm psyched that this tidbit was uncovered because I actually feared McCain the most for the general election, regardless of his idiotic insistence on embracing the failures in Iraq. I think that his military record, and "straight talk" (even if he forgot how to do it in an express fashion) make him a compelling general election candidate.

Meanwhile, I think our top three candidates (Clinton, Obama and Edwards) are incredibly strong, and Democrats in general seem to be happy with our field. I'm feeling like a Blue America in '08.

Update: Interesting, it may be that Steve Schmidt, Rove protege and Arnold's campaign manager and former press secretary of Matt Fong, 1998 California Republican candidate for Governor, left the McCain campaign to be a partner at Mercury Public Affairs. And if that's the case, I echo Azi's question: why don't they mention McCain in the hiring press release? Could it be that they don't want to associate themselves with a flailing campaign?

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