John McCain is getting much more than President Bush's endorsement and fundraising help for his campaign. Hes getting Bush's staff.
Its no secret that Steve Schmidt, Bushs attack dog in the 2004 election, and Mark McKinnon, the presidents media strategist, are performing similar functions for McCain now.
But other big-name Bushies are lining up to boost McCain, too.
Ken Mehlman, who ran Bushs 2004 campaign, is now serving as an unpaid, outside adviser to the Arizona Republican. Karl Rove, the presidents top political hand since his Texas days, recently gave money to McCain and soon after had a private conversation with the senator. A top McCain adviser said both Mehlman and Rove are now informally advising the campaign. Rove refused to detail his conversation with McCain.
The list could grow longer. Dan Bartlett, formerly a top aide in the Bush White House, and Sara Taylor, the erstwhile Bush political adviser, said they are eager to provide any assistance and advice possible to McCain.
Rove explained that he and McCain got to know each other during the 2004 campaign. In a separate interview, Mehlman noted that McCain was completely loyal to the president in 2004 and worked incredibly hard to help him get elected. According to Taylor, The Bush Republicans here in town are excited for John McCain.
Despite the presidents low approval ratings, there are clear benefits to this cozy relationship with the Bush team. They are seasoned operatives with a track record of winning back-to-back national elections in tough political environments. But there are obvious drawbacks. First and foremost, any association with the Bush administration helps Democrats make their case that McCain represents a clear extension of an unpopular presidency.
Spotlight reveals Obama camp missteps A tough spring ahead for McCain? Plouffe questions Clinton's openness One of those making that argument is Matt Dowd, Bushs chief strategist in 2004.
[McCain] has sided himself so closely to the administration, especially on Iraq, now having various Bush advisers that doesnt sit well with the public, said Dowd, who has recently broken with the Bush inner circle. The public wants the non-Bush candidate.
Dowd also argued that he believes that the proximity of Bushs advisers could lead McCain to a strategic mistake: refighting the 2004 campaign. There is a real danger of that, Dowd added. And I think some of the things John McCain has done, and how hes done it, has been a fight or a battle thats gone. I dont think this is going to be a terrorism election or a national security election.
The McCain adviser said Dowd's concern is unwarranted, pointing to the campaigns belief that the economy will play a far greater role in the 2008 race than in 2004's.
That hasnt stopped Democrats from seizing upon the Bush-McCain axis. When Bush and McCain met at the White House on Wednesday, a Democratic leaning group aired an ad that day in the swing states of Pennsylvania and Ohio titled McSame, attacking McCain as a Bush clone with similar policies on taxes, health care and the war in Iraq. The Democratic National Committee quickly posted a video of the news conference on its website. Beneath the video, it read that McCain would carry on Bushs failed economic and foreign policies.
The McCain campaign, for its part, has been coy about how or whether the senator will distance himself from the president.
McCain said that he intended to campaign with Bush but quickly added a caveat: only as it fits into his busy schedule. The scheduling disclaimer followed each of the five times in the 10-minute press conference that McCain invited Bush to join him on the trail.
For now, said a senior adviser to McCain who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the the No. 1 strategic goal was to solidify the base of the party. A strong majority of Republicans continue to approve of the president.
Yet independents and Democrats do not share Republicans' approval of Bush. And former Bush aides recognize the political exigencies surrounding the McCain-Bush relationship.
We agree on far more than we disagree on, Bartlett said. Everybody will do everything they can to help. And if part of being helpful means [to] stay away, Im sure people will stay away.
At the moment, McCains campaign seems to believe Bushs assistance is more valuable than not. But the McCain adviser noted that, down the road, the campaign will reinforce that [McCain] is an independent.
TM & © THE POLITICO & POLITICO.COM, a division of Allbritton
Was anyone else thinking “Larry Bud? I thought he was dead? Wouldn’t be much of an endorsement anyway.”
Is Ken much of an endorsement? He’s really a back office guy.
I’ll take a Rove over a Dowd anyday.
If McCain does manage to pull a come-from-behind victory over Hillary/Obama (and you have to consider him the underdog due to financing, width and depth of support, national mood, etc) it will be so lovely, the sound of all that wailing and gnashing of teeth throughout the land at the thought of: another 4 years with Rove!
According to Taylor, The Bush Republicans here in town are excited for John McCain.
Both of them?
Rove & Mehlman are on board? Whew! I feel so much better now. /sarc
McKinnon has got to go. His comments about not attacking Obama were disgusting. McCain doesn’t need someone who buys all the Messiah crap on his staff.
Now that Ken Mehlman is officially on board, I sincerely hope John McCain gets clobbered in November. I don’t even care any more.
Haven’t they done enough to destroy the GOP?
Take a vacation, guys.
Is this the Rove who led Republicans to a popular vote loss in 2000, and a small margin of victory against one of the worst candidates the democrats have fielded in 2004?
Golly, 2008 should be...interesting.
If Juan "no borders" Mcnasty wins in November, surely he will discard conservatives & conservative principles even faster than he has in the recent past.
If barry hussein or hellry wins, they will shred America of any remaining conservative principles for their marxist fascism.
Mehlman, Rove, Juan Hernandez, what’s next, Ron Nehring and his illegal aliens? It sure was a Grand Old Party, Adios!
I am beginning to like John McCain. Rove’s idea of getting Mcain’s story out to the public is a good one. I can find alot of things to disagree with him, but I can find just as many reasons to like him.
can’t say I’m crazy about some of these NeoCons from the opposing side in the amnesty battle
can’t say I’m surprised either
Gang of 14.