John McCain's Very Bad Weekend in New Hampshire
John McCain visits New Hampshire the weekend after the "torture" debacle, and finds a less than welcoming reception. The New York Times (naturally) gets the exclusive of choppering with the Senator to his NASCAR event:
Unfortunately for Senator McCain, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Hugh Hewitt hold more sway in deciding the Republican primary than Adam Nagourney, or every Iowa and New Hampshire ward heeler combined. The good Senator had previously said that conservative talk radio personalities are bad for America.
Mr. McCain said Sunday that he was acting out of conscience, not political calculation, to reinforce an image of independence that has been questioned in recent months as he has supported Mr. Bush on issues like the war in Iraq. Still, he said his office had been deluged with critical phone calls, and that he had picked up enough buzz from conservative radio talk stations to conclude that he might have once again rattled his support among conservatives.
“I would imagine so,” he said, riding in a helicopter rumbling over the New Hampshire hills as it took him to a Nascar race at the New Hampshire International Speedway. “The radio talk show hosts have already been very critical.”
The editorial firestorm from the Manchester Union Leader does not go unnoticed:
Still, many conservatives have criticized Mr. McCain for his support for campaign finance legislation, his backing of what they believe are permissive immigration laws, and now this. “The question is being asked: in the midst of the most difficult and challenging war we have ever faced, can the nation afford a President McCain?” The Union-Leader — the largest newspaper in the state, which holds the nation’s first presidential primary — asked in a front-page editorial on Saturday. It was one of two editorials it published this weekend attacking Mr. McCain’s views.Gov. Romney's seizing this massive opportunity is also noted.
McCain was met with "decidedly light applause" when he brought up the issue at a Republican reception.
Also: note the Union Leader headline: "McCain makes the case for gentler interrogation of captured terrorists." Ouch.
Again, this is a HUGE deal because is strikes at the heart of McCain's frontrunner rationale: he's a maverick who's made nice with the GOP establishment. Going into the process, McCain had two strikes against him -- campaign finance reform and immigration. Once an obscure second-tier issue, "torture" is likely the third.
What this shows is that McCain hasn't changed since 2000. He's still willing to inflict major damage on President Bush and the GOP to prove a point (at least with immigration, he was on the President's side). His stunt is almost as suicidal as his Virginia Beach speech. This will earn him major media brownie points and a "Profile in Courage" award but... cost him the prize he most craves, the White House.