John McCain held a rapidly-called conference call with bloggers this afternoon.
McCain begins by saying, “We’re flying all over the state of Florida leave her fairly soon, and do an event in Tampa with Governor Crist. It’s a coup to have him signed on. We’re locked in a tight race.”
He begins by remarking about Justice Alito — “I supported him, I thought he was a magnificent choice, I spoke on his behalf from the floor of the Senate… I’ve said several times that I’d like to find clones for Justices Roberts and Alito. Of course, that opens up raises other issues, so I ahven’t used that phrase anymore… It was a tough fight. He only got 57 views. If you ask Jon Kyl, Lindsey Graham, or anyone on that committee, they’ll say that I was a supporter… I was astonished that my record — I just wanted to make clear my record of supporting Justice Alito.”
I followed up a bit, asking, any idea how that comment got attributed to you?
“I don’t recall a conversation where I would have said that. I’m not saying someone didn’t tell him that. It’s important to say what my record was, my advocacy, my hard work, my comments on the campaign trail. Every town hall meeting, I’ve said, we’re going to have justices like Roberts and Alito. The White House would be the first to tell you that I was one of the folks out there slugging for them.”
Me: Is it possible for a Supreme Court Justice nominee to wear his politics on his sleeve?
McCain: Well, mmm… There may be. They’re there to interpret the Constitution, and the question is, does this justice have a record, does this nominee have a clear record of strict interpretation of the Constitution. We know we can’t ask about pending cases. The beauty of Alito and Roberts was they had a clear record.
I don’t think Supreme Court Justices should get involved in political campaigns or electoral politics, and I know you don’t either. I know that if they interpret the Constitution strictly, you’ll see a lot of decisions in the keeping with your and my political philosophy.
Dan: Are you still scheduling fundraisers?
McCain: We’ve only done a few, tomorrow is the perfect time to do it. We have some slack time until the polls close and we are waiting for the exit poll numbers to come in.
Jen Rubin: Is this a must win state for you or for Romney?
McCain: (missed the beginning) The robo-calls are all out again. I don’t think that works. He challenges my economic credentials, which I think are strong. I challenge his record as governor, where they had the third-worse economic record in the country and he left a deficit… They’re throwing everything but the kitchen sink at us… I’m being accurate, and I see his attacks as unwarranted and a bit desperate.
Pat Curley: Did you change your opinion on the Swift Boat Vets for Truth?
McCain: I objected to [Kerry’s] combat record being questions. When they attacked his acts in the anti-war movement, that was completely different. I thought all of that stuff was fair game. I didn’t think that his combat record were appropriate. I think there’s a significant difference there.
Asked by Michael Goldfarb about Obama’s South Carolina victory, McCain said he was eager for the fray with either Obama or Clinton. In response to a question about Pat Buchanan claiming they’re no longer friends or on speaking terms, McCain said, “One of the things I have to do if and when I get the nomination, I have to unite the party. We have a lot of work to do to unite and galvanize our Republican Party, and we’re going to need everyone pulling in the same direction.”
NRO’s Mark Hemingway asked whether McCain’s strict constructionist judges would uphold his views on issues like campaign finance reform.
McCain: I won’t allow my bias on any belief – there will be decisions whose importance that will far exceed my political agenda.
Asked about his reaction to the New York Times endorsement, McCain said, “My reaction was, as with several other liberal papers that have endorsed me, I’m glad that they support that they support my views, but it doesn’t mean I support theirs.”