Now that he has officially launched his presidential bid, Sen. John McCain’s campaign is hoping to get a fresh start. And the first step in that effort is, apparently, to try and downplay his various recent attempts to ingratiate himself to the Right by suggesting that his heart wasn’t really in it:
McCain’s problems in the party stem from other factors. He has sought to repair relations with parts of the conservative base, particularly religious conservatives, whose leaders he attacked during his 2000 campaign. He spent time last year courting such leaders as the Rev. Jerry Falwell, but much of the party’s conservative base remains suspicious of him.
GOP strategists said that McCain’s efforts were half-hearted, and that he sought rapprochement with Falwell but not with the Rev. Pat Robertson. They also said he made a tactical error in declining to speak at meetings of high-profile conservative groups over the past several months.
[McCain’s advisers] argue that it was never McCain’s hope to become the darling of social and religious conservatives — only to get enough votes among those Republicans to win the nomination. “McCain’s goal wasn’t to become their candidate,” a campaign official said.
While McCain may not have reached out to Robertson directly, he did appear pretty eager to impress David Brody of Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network last month, displaying his right-wing bona fides by reminding Brody that he had met Richard Land and Jerry Falwell and trying to get past his infamous “agents of intolerance” remark, explaining that “sometimes you say things in anger that you don’t mean.”
But while McCain may now be pursing a new, slightly less obsequious campaign strategy, his Republican opponents most certainly are not:
Sometime between the pan-roasted filet of salmon and Rich Little’s dusty impressions, Presidential candidate Mitt Romney strode over to Pat Robertson’s table.
“He’s going to have to do what John F. Kennedy did down to the Houston Baptists,” Mr. Robertson told The Observer after the two had talked. “Once he said where he stood, then he allayed their fears.
“I don’t know if Romney can do that,” said Mr. Robertson of the lone Mormon candidate, while adding that “he’s an extraordinarily attractive person.”
But the table of the Christian Broadcasting Network was a magnet for Republican Presidential candidates.
“Giuliani, Fred Thompson, Romney and Mike Huckabee—just to name four that have come by the table already,” said Mr. Robertson.