When Arizona Senator John McCain was running for president in the 2000 race, and I volunteered to help his campaign, he was known as a "maverick" Republican who stood up against the GOP establishment and would shake up the status quo.
That was the same label given to Connecticut's one-term "maverick" governor Lowell Weicker, who really did shake things up when he reneged on his most important campaign promise by successfully pushing for a state income tax.
But in recent days, as mayors and governors with a less than conservative reputation jump on his bandwagon, it is hard to apply the term maverick to McCain any longer.
In fact, it is not unreasonable to consider that those who are supporting McCain have far more left-leaning reputations than some Democrats. These include former New York Mayor and former presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell.
Giuliani, who was the media choice for the GOP nomination until the Florida primary, not only says he is supporting McCain, but he is 'releasing' his supporters to do the same. One problem with that endorsement is that Giuliani is considered liberal, despite being a registered Republican, and even a huge influx of liberal New York City "snowbirds" couldn't help him make a respectable showing in Florida.
Schwarzenegger, who was originally considered to be a conservative, has lost much of his California GOP base due to his support of liberal causes once he was elected. Observers close to the political scene in California say his base now consists more of liberal Democrats. His endorsement might give McCain media attention, but not necessarily support from the GOP faithful.
Similarly, Jodi Rell, Connecticut's governor, was roundly criticized in her own party in the 2006 election in which she won handily, but did little to nothing to help her under-ticket, which went down to flaming defeat in a state where the Democrats man most of the top posts and have veto proof majorities in both houses of the Legislature.
Rell is a registered Republican, yet in the 2006 race she took huge donations from liberal Democrats. In December, 2005, for instance, the state media was focused on a minor scandal in which Rell's aide had distributed to state department heads - on state time - "be there or else" invitations to a Rell fund-raiser.
But while that fund-raiser, held at a popular eatery in East Hartford, a blue-collar town where the Pratt & Whitney aircraft engine manufacturer still the dominates the landscape, was in constant focus, little attention was given to another Rell money-maker in wealthy Litchfield on the western side of the state.
There, Rell was the star at a party hosted by liberal Democrats who charged a $2,500 per person entrance fee, and Republicans were an endangered species.
Rell further angered both her base and the party hierarchy last year when her budget proposal included a 10 percent increase in the state income tax that Weicker instituted, and which cost him his political career.
Questions abounded on why the state would need an increase in the income tax, when it has posted billion dollar surpluses in each of the previous three years. With its roads and infrastructure in decline, an ongoing scandal involving a huge rebuilding project on Interstate 84, and taxpayers in revolt over crushing property taxes, it was left to the GOP minority in the Legislature to come up with a palatable budget, a major slap in the face to the governor.
Rell and a handful of state party officials will be on hand in Fairfield County this Sunday for McCain's whistle stop. It is interesting that he is appearing in Fairfield, a county where there is a lot of money, but not so many Republicans.
McCain has not announced plans to visit the eastern side of the state where there are plenty of Republicans but they tend to write checks with far fewer zeroes.
It is obvious that in some parts of the GOP hierarchy, the left side of the party is coalescing, and circling the wagons around one of their own, John McCain. Apparently, Mike Huckabee's popularity and focus on the Fair Tax, and Mitt Romney's success and financial independence are worrisome to those who support the status quo in Washington, D.C.
McCain is no longer a maverick. He is the status quo. He is the establishment. The only question that remains now is whether voters really are sick of what has transpired in our nation's capital since Ronald Reagan left office, or are they the ones who have been giving lip service to the media, and will vote to maintain the status quo.
Oh, yeah, in the interest of fairness, the Democratic candidates are coming here too. How about, rather than giving up a great Super Bowl Sunday to go hear a political speech, we start up a new game to bet on?
We'll call it Find The Republican, and out of the three candidates now scheduled to appear in Connecticut, the goal will be to correctly identify which if any are Republicans. Not that anyone could tell the difference.
Thursday, January 31, 2008