McCain Conference Call

Now that the primary campaign has just about wrapped up, John McCain’s team has begun to look towards the convention and November. I received an invitation to his blogger conference call this morning, after a particularly successful night on the Potomac. He started by talking about how pleased he was about the primaries, especially in Maryland. He said a nine-point win in Virginia is “very good”, but also says that Mike Huckabee has indicated to him personally that he will continue.
McCain met with the Republican caucus in the House, who endorsed him. He pledged to them that he would contest all 50 states in November. He will continue his efforts to unite the party, and that it takes some time to get over the bumps and bruises of a primary campaign. McCain wants to run on taxes, regulation, and health care as the primary domestic themes. He also hailed the news from Iraq this morning for their action, and says it proves the “wrong assessments” of the Democrats on both military and political analysis of the situation.
* Obama voted against the FISA statute yesterday and still calls for a full and immediate withdrawal; does he have the judgment to be CinC? – McCain won’t comment on his judgment, but says that events have proven Obama wrong on Iraq. He also welcomed the MoveOn endorsement, the same organization that published a full-page insult to an American military commander. On FISA, he says that will be one of the differences between the two, if he wins the nomination.
* Will he resign his Senate seat for the run, and what is he looking for in a VP? – Someone who shares his view on taxes and spending, national defense, and also environmental concerns. He wants to run as a Teddy Roosevelt Republican. He won’t make a decision on leaving the Senate. He’ll make that decision at the convention.
* Should Huckabee get out of the race, and are Mark Sanford and Tom Coburn in contention for the VP? – He doesn’t want to speculate on the VP; he hasn’t even started the process yet. He respects and likes Huckabee, and he has no problem with him continuing since the tenor has been respectful.
* Earmarks — Henry Waxman swore off pork yesterday. What will McCain do to pressure Republicans to follow Waxman’s lead? — He was working on that this morning. He sees the GOP leadership coming around, but he made clear he will veto anything with earmarks.
* Did his effort to reach out to conservatives at CPAC work? – Yes, he thinks it has worked It will take some time to really resonate, but he wants a united party and will make room at the table for the entire Republican coalition. “It would be my honor to meet with them.” He has not yet met with Romney, but they will do so at the “appropriate time”.
* The Gitmo trials: will he accept the process as fair if they get convicted and sentenced to death? – Yes, he trusts the process. Lindsey Graham, a former JAG lawyer, has kept a close eye on the process and has endorsed it. These people do not deserve the protections of the American civil system, but should be closer to that of Nuremberg and the Japanese war-crimes trial. He just wishes that we hadn’t waited so long to get these trials in motion, and these people may be the most evil that have ever been seen on the face of the earth.
* Is Huckabee’s continuing campaign helpful in that it keeps the media focused on him? He’s not sure whether it’s better or not; he wants to get it wrapped up as quickly as possible. McCain respects him and his ambitions, though, and won’t ask him to end the campaign.
* Would a unilateral moratorium on earmarks energize the base? – It would be one of the most energizing messages we could generate. It’s an issue everyone understands, and it would recognize the harm done to the base by the explosion of earmarks. He hopes the GOP adopts it — because it would generate immediate momentum for the Congressional election.
McCain sounded loose and engaged today, boosted no doubt by his wins yesterday. He also laughed when someone thanked him for continuing these blogger calls after all but clinching the nomination, saying that no one else listened to him for months and he’s not about to forsake us now.

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