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August 21, 2006
McCain Burnishing Bush Credentials, But Why?

John McCain continues his efforts to lock up the Republican nomination for President as early as possible, and as the New York Times reports, he's doing so by hiring political operatives before his competitors. McCain has leveraged his PAC money and his connections in DC to create a network of campaign support far ahead of most other presumed candidates:

Senator John McCain is locking up a cast of top-shelf Republican strategists, policy experts, fund-raisers and donors, in a methodical effort to build a 2008 presidential campaign machine, drawing supporters of President Bush despite the sometimes rocky history between the two men.

Mr. McCain’s effort to woo a diverse lineup of backers and scare off rivals has augmented his travel schedule on behalf of Republicans — which this week and next includes trips to Iowa, Louisiana, Virginia, South Carolina, Ohio and Florida.

The effort is fueling a fund-raising operation that has helped him build loyalty throughout the party by doling out more than $800,000 to candidates since the start of last year through his political action committee.

Other Republican presidential hopefuls are doing likewise, but Mr. McCain is widely judged to be farther along in assembling the kind of national network necessary to sustain a long, expensive campaign for his party’s nomination to succeed President Bush.

At the heart of this article is the question as to whether McCain is the logical choice to bear the Bush mantle into another election. However, outside of war policy and taxes, many Republicans may ask themselves if they want to continue the policies of George Bush at all, especially on domestic spending. And this is where McCain has the advantage.

Conservatives have increasingly become disaffected from the current administration as federal spending grows. Even leaving out war spending, the Bush administration and the Republican Congress have expanded discretionarly spending far past the rate of inflation -- and conservatives have no interest in even maintaining the size of government. They want to see it reduced, along with the intrusive reach of Washington DC into areas of policy that should not fall under federal control.

McCain offers these conservatives a better champion than the Bush administration ever was on this score. McCain has long been a deficit hawk, although his impulses have sometimes led him towards taxes than cuts. He initially opposed the last of the Bush tax cuts, but supports it now, and this squishiness may become an issue during the primary if a strong challenger on the right emerges. McCain's support for open-government efforts like the federal budget database (S. 2590) also endears him to these conservatives, and contrasts with the less-than-open Bush White House.

Fiscal conservatives will want a candidate who can merge two impossible tasks: create an atmosphere of bipartisanship and attack entitlement spending. Right now, the GOP has three possible candidates for Mission Impossible -- Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, and McCain. Of the three, McCain probably has the clearest reputation for both bipartisanship and spending opposition.

However, McCain still has to answer for the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, the monstrosity that put political-speech restrictions into American law. Conservatives have opposed this strongly since before it passed Congress, and are not likely to trust McCain with executive power while he continues to support government restrictions on political speech. Had it not been for the BCRA, McCain could probably have won the nomination by acclaim. Now, however, with conservatives hoping to repeal the BCRA at some point, they will not blithely put the veto pen into the hands of its author.

Nor will they easily trust him with judicial appointments, not after his Gang of 14 grandstanding manuever. McCain gave liberals cover for their assertions that prominent jurists like Henry Saad and Janice Rogers Brown were either incompetent or too radical to sit on appellate courts. He unnecessarily complicated the appointment process and usurped powers from the presidency, as well as acted to protect a particularly undemocratic Senatorial process. Under these circumstances, conservatives rightly wonder what kind of jurists a McCain administration would sent to the Senate for confirmation on our nation's highest courts.

McCain may collect all of the political operatives he can muster, but he can't outrun these black marks on his record. Conservatives will continue looking for a better candidate and hope to outrun McCain in the primaries.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 21, 2006 6:05 AM

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» McCain trying to lock it up early from Wizbang Politics
We've been reporting on McCain's "Summer Tour '06," including visits to Virginia and Ohio. Now a New York Times article notes McCain is signing up "a cast of top-shelf Republican strategists, policy experts, fund-raisers and donors" in an attempt to... [Read More]

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