Bob Novak’s account of Sen. John McCain’s establishment outreach is an interesting look at how the maverick’s campaign will be different this time around. That Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS), who was very tough on McCain as a Bush surrogate in ‘00, and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), whose home-state colleague is also mounting a run, would so publicly get behind the Arizonan at this early stage lends credence to the “inevitability” storyline the McCain folks are seeking.
As I wrote for the forthcoming issue of NRODT, and as both Novak and Tom Edsall recently in the NYT get at, the GOP is nothing if not hierarchical. Going back to ‘80, the party has nominated candidates who’ve “waited their turn.” Even in ‘00, Pres Bush was the closest thing to being the next in line; his father had been denied a second term, so the son was the next closest thing.
I would add two things to the Novak piece. One, McCain had two other senatorial endorsements beyond Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE) in ‘00. Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH) and then-Sen. Fred Thompson (R-TN) also were publicly behind their colleague.
Second, regarding the last part of the column, Rudy Giuliani could indeed fare well among independents in the open New Hampshire primary. But last weekend’s Obama-mania in the Granite State offers a good reminder of why the “first in the nation” primary could be a challenge for both Giuliani and McCain. Unlike in ‘00, where McCain’s upstart bid sucked all the oxygen out of the contest, ‘08′s rock star could be Sen. Barack Obama. Should Obama make a run, he could draw many of those same independents to the Democratic primary and away from Giuliani and McCain. Remember, the contests happen on the same day and you can’t vote in both.