McCain's Independents Day
By Joel Achenbach
CONCORD, N.H.--Today is Independents Day for John McCain as he rolls across snow-blanketed New Hampshire. First the Arizona senator appeared with Joe Lieberman, the 2000 Democratic vice-presidential nominee who now identifies himself as an "Independent Democrat." With Lieberman's endorsement in his pocket, McCain soon held a press conference in Concord to discuss the launch of something called the New Hampshire Independents for McCain coalition. Independents in New Hampshire can choose between the Republican and Democratic primary contests; McCain told reporters that 42 percent of the New Hampshire electorate is currently independent.
But McCain also seemed to sense that he had to cover his partisan base. In touting his appeal to independents, he made sure to add, "I will seek the support of my party and I will actively seek the support of a majority of the Republican Party in these primaries."
Which raises the obvious question: What would it mean, politically, if McCain won New Hampshire but didn't carry the Republican vote?
How should pundits interpret that?
"Oh, if we win we'll win the Republican vote, just like we did in 2000," McCain told The Post as he carefully negotiated a sidewalk outside the State Library. "Everybody made a big deal about, that we carried the independents so strongly. We carried the Republicans. If we win the primary we'll carry the majority of the Republican vote."
In his press conference he insisted that, in reaching out to independents and Democrats as president, he would preserve his conservative convictions and ideals "the same way Ronald Reagan was able to."
He added: "I would only urge my independent friends to vote early and vote often."
A reporter asked him how he managed to get Lieberman's support.
"I put on my kneepads," McCain said, drawing a laugh. "Bent the knee, kissed the ring." He turned more serious and said, "I was a little reluctant to ask him because I didn't want him to do something that would do harm to his political future," he said. "But I did ask him." Lieberman, he said, consulted with his wife and children and got a "mixed opinion" about whether to endorse McCain. Of Lieberman's final decision, McCain said "I think it is an act of courage."
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