The man for the GOP flanked by former Senator Slade Gorton and Attorney General Rob McKenna.
The fight for the Republican nomination is over in all but name only giving Sen. John McCain or Arizona the chance to really kick off his national campaign. He didn’t require the expansive digs of Clinton or Obama, taking a halved ballroom at the Westin to address his supporters. But they still packed the room to hear him deliver a few laugh lines, reboard the Straight Talk Express and spend a lot of time hammering on corporate taxes (make the Bush tax cuts permanent) and Iraq (no surrender!).
I haven’t followed the McCain campaign as closely, but he said a couple of things that surprised me. He wants restraint in government spending--as a fiscal conservative that makes sense--but he also vowed to “veto every single earmark that comes my way.”
It was an applause line, but coming from someone who spent a large part of their career on the hill, it’s a little naive. There are the splashy, possibly abusive examples, like the infamous Alaskan bridge to nowhere. But earmarks are also the way a lot of smaller state projects get any federal funding at all. People on both sides of the aisle depend on them to pick up cash for local projects that are of great importance to constituents and by association their reelection. I can’t imagine legislators from either party responding well to an executive that won’t sign any of them.
There’s also his hawkishness on the war. His support makes sense, but some of his applause lines sound rehashed from Bush speeches that didn’t turn out to be so prescient:
“I look you in the eye and tell you, I will get Osama bin Laden.”
Or: “We will never surrender, they will.”
He even added something about Al Qaeda being on the run.
In fact the only time he took a shot at the sitting President was with this reference to Bush’s odd intuitive trust for Vladimir Putin: “I looked in Mr. Putin’s eyes and saw three letters--a K, G and B.”
And there’s still that one part of his campaign that makes you wonder how successful he can be with that evangelical base. The words “family values” never left his lips. Makes you wonder if he’ll go for a veep choice that can bring that into the campaign.
State Republicans can still weigh in on their support for McCain at today’s caucuses and the Feb. 19 primary, but McCain gets to coast for a few months, testing out what will become his run for the White House in November.