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July 17, 2004
McCain Steps Up Again

Uberpolitician John McCain, the darling of the Democrats until they finally decided he couldn't be swayed onto a Kerry/McCain ticket, hit the stumps again yesterday, appearing with Dick Cheney in a key battleground state:

He called Vice President Cheney "indispensable and very debonair." The vice president called him "one of the great Americans of our generation." Standing before an enormous American flag and balloons, the two white-haired politicians wrapped their arms around each other.

McCain is the only Republican in Congress so far who has accompanied President Bush or Cheney to a campaign event outside his or her home turf. Even Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (Tenn.) and one of Bush's closest friends in Congress, Rep. Rob Portman (Ohio), have traveled only to Bush-Cheney '04 fundraisers, not rallies.

In Lansing, McCain gave a lengthy introduction of Cheney, calling him "one of the most capable, experienced, intelligent and steady vice presidents this country has ever had." Adopting one of the central selling points of the Bush campaign, McCain said that Cheney "is, in effect, deputy commander in chief in the greatest test of our generation . . . this long, tough fight to vanquish international terrorism."

That McCain and Bush disagree on policy is in no dispute. However, John Kerry and his colleagues on the other side of the aisle had to be kidding themselves if they thought they could leverage that into steering McCain into the Kerry camp. If McCain disagrees with Bush, he's almost antithetical to Kerry, especially to Kerry's policy vagaries. As tenacious as Kerry is evasive, McCain has never built his political views by sticking his finger into the wind. In fact, temperamentally, McCain has always been closer to Bush.

The effusive praise heaped on McCain by Dick Gephardt and Bob Kerrey has helped raise his profile and credibility even further, and McCain has put it to good use on the campaign trail. He's shown no reluctance to stand beside Cheney, who despite his current popularity woes has been a consistent and steadying influence in American government for almost a quarter-century. The Senator and the VP have worked together for many years and probably make a better road team than Bush and McCain do -- and Cheney could probably use the boost more than Bush, too.

McCain found the time to dig at Kerry's eventual replacement for McCain on the ticket:

For his part, McCain, who traveled with Cheney only as far as Lansing, took subtle digs at Edwards. Without mentioning the Democrat by name, McCain implicitly contrasted Edwards's one term in the Senate with Cheney's long government career. Alluding to Edwards's reputation as a sexy politician, McCain said of Cheney, "In short, he is not just another pretty face."

Expect this to be the message regarding Edwards through November. John Edwards can appear in People Magazine. Dick Cheney can be president.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 17, 2004 9:22 AM

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