McCain Palin-ized the GOP ... Can He Undo the Damage?

News & Politics

I have to confess that I've never had a high opinion of John McCain. I remember Christmas 1999, when I gave one of my brothers a book by Bill Bradley and he gave me a book by Sen. McCain. I took a look, but I was unimpressed. It seemed then, and it seems now, too, that McCain's pattern in life is to make large mistakes and then spend years trying to atone for them. That's my understanding of his campaign finance reform efforts. And that's why he attacked Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell at the end of his 2000 campaign, after having sucked up to them and defended the Confederate Flag in South Carolina. McCain unleashed a howling, racist beast when he selected Sarah Palin. In effect, he Palinized the Republican Party. Now he wants to make amends.

McCain is recruiting candidates, raising money for them and hitting the campaign trail on their behalf. He’s taken sides in competitive House, Senate and gubernatorial primaries and introduced his preferred candidates to his top donors...

...It’s all part of an approach that is at odds with most other recent failed presidential nominees, whose immediate response to defeat was to retreat from the electoral arena. But those familiar with McCain’s thinking say he has expressed serious concern about the direction of the party and is actively seeking out and supporting candidates who can broaden the party’s reach.

In McCain’s case, that means backing conservative pragmatists and moderates.

“I think he’s endorsed people with center-right politics because he has an understanding that the party is in trouble with certain demographics and wants to have a tone that would allow us to grow,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who is McCain’s closest friend and ally in the Senate.

In choosing Palin, McCain morphed what could have been a genuinely mavericky campaign into a drive for a third Bush term.

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