Thursday, July 06, 2006

Phil Gramm Backs John McCain

Some might call it ironic, others just strange bedfellows, but I say it simply makes sense, if in fact top Republicans privately believe that the 2008 presidential nomination is McCain's to lose.
Now, one of the most widely respected conservatives in the country says he is ready to help pull the McCain campaign bandwagon whenever the senator makes his 2008 Republican presidential run official.
"He is the only person I know who is running and capable of getting elected who is tough enough to do what needs to be done," says former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, who has quietly been helping to write Mr. McCain's speeches. "He will veto spending bills and earmarks and stand up to the Social Security and Medicare challenges that will fall in the next president's lap with the baby boomer retirement."
For some luminaries on the right, Mr. Gramm and Mr. McCain make an odd couple at best.
"You've got to be kidding," former Majority Leader Tom DeLay said after being told of Mr. Gramm's support for Mr. McCain. "Though in a sense, I'm not surprised. They've been friends."

Gramm, like many, many other conservatives, strongly disagreed with McCain's stance on campaign-finance issues, among others. But unlike many Republicans, he appears to recognize that for the most part, McCain is more reliably conservative than he's given credit for in certain entrenched camps, and that he has a much better chance to capture a decent proportion of centrist votes as well.

A couple of different polls bear out Gramm's and others' assessment of the odds, as well.
According to a poll by American Research Group taken in May, Mr. McCain leads Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in Utah 37 percent to 22 percent. In Arizona, Mr. McCain leads his nearest rival, Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, 59 percent to 3 percent, and in New Mexico, he leads the field at 38 percent. His nearest rival in that state is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at 5 percent.
Nationally, the June 1-4 Cook Political Report poll of 874 registered voters has Mr. McCain leading with 29 percent and former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani second with 24 percent. Mr. Romney, Mr. Gingrich, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Virginia Sen. George Allen and Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo are all in single digits.
The same poll found Mr. McCain beating Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, 47 percent to 40 percent in a general election matchup, just outside the poll's error margin.

So, whaddya think? Are you surprised, pleasantly or otherwise, by Gramm's stance? Is he being prescient, smart, and pragmatic, or Betraying The Conservative Cause?

For those of you who oppose McCain, does Gramm's backing of him move you to second thoughts, or even to change your mind? If you're someone who backs McCain because you think he's really not all that conservative, does Gramm's support give you pause?

And is this team-up "ironic," or isn't it?

(You just knew I had to make the stretch to bring back in the Theme Of The Morning, didn't you? Well, I AM in an ornery--in the modern, expansive definition of that word--mood today, it's true.)