What’s up with McCain?

I don’t quite understand what’s going on here:

Facing a loss at a 2008 straw poll event this weekend, Senator John McCain of Arizona told his supporters to write in President Bush [?] as a sign of support, leaving many sputtering.

“For the next three years, with our country at war, he’s our president and the only one who needs our support,” McCain told nearly 2,000 party activists from 26 states gathered in Memphis.

McCain, realizing the national political media had descended on the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, moved to discredit the straw poll by asking delegates to vote for Bush, insiders claim.

Instead of stopping the momentum of Majority Leader Bill Frist – widely anticipated to win the straw poll – the move seemed to expose the McCain camp’s insincerity about its position with the base.

One activist said, “McCain voted against all the Bush tax cuts… maybe he should have voted for the president then, instead of waiting for a political stunt to try and distract.”

Would someone please enlighten me with some speculation as to why he would have done this?

Elephants in Academia says:

This wasn’t the noble act of a uniter–it was the cold, calculated maneuver of someone who wasn’t the presumed front-runner and wanted to scuttle the actual front-runner and score points with the base at the same time.

Ouch. As the media-appointed “maverick” of the Republican party (something over which conservatives have long expressed irritation), McCain definitely needs to work on scoring points with the base in order to have a shot at making it past the primaries (this, of course, is assuming he’d run). But I’m not so sure this is the way to go about scoring points with the base.

Tom Bevan at Real Clear Politics has more on McCain at last night’s SRLC.

More: The SF Chronicle reports:

After a full-throated defense of President Bush’s policies on Iraq, Iran and even port security, Sen. John McCain shrugged his shoulders and explained why: “It’s easy to be loyal when the guy is at 65 percent.”

“I’m not going to kick him while he’s down.”


McCain, the early front-runner for 2008, epitomizes how Republican candidates are judiciously handling their approach to Bush.

While praising the president for the fight against terrorism, the Arizona senator denounced the free-spending habits of Congress and noted that President Reagan vetoed a bill with 152 special spending projects. Without mentioning Bush or the president’s unused veto pen, McCain told delegates in his Friday night address that a spending bill recently was signed into law with more than 6,000 such project.

“My friends, that’s your money. We cannot do that with American tax dollars,” McCain said, slashing the air with his finger as he raised his voice to a shout. “We cannot do that!”

Delegates praised McCain on Saturday for being both fiscally conservative and loyal to Bush who, despite sagging poll numbers, is still supported by three-fourths of Republicans. McCain has been trying to curry favor with conservatives since his failed 2000 campaign against Bush.

“You don’t hear McCain defend the president very often and I found that very encouraging,” said Adair Schippers, a delegate from Cheatam County, Tenn.


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