McCain Seeks Reagan Mantle
By Howard Kurtz
The Ad: Narrator: As a prisoner of war, John McCain was inspired by Ronald Reagan. John McCain: I enlisted as a foot soldier in the Reagan revolution. Narrator: Guided by strong conservative principles, he'll cut wasteful spending and keep taxes low. A proud social conservative who will never waver. The leadership and experience to call for the surge strategy in Iraq that is working. John McCain: The true conservative. Ready to be commander-in-chief on day one.
Analysis: This John McCain ad on national cable has one goal: reassuring conservatives at a time when Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and other commentators are attacking his candidacy and Ann Coulter is even vowing to campaign for Hillary Clinton if McCain is the GOP nominee.
As the opening shot--McCain as a prisoner in Hanoi--makes clear, he has dropped the reticence he showed in 2000 about invoking his Vietnam ordeal. Ronald Reagan was California's governor during his captivity, but fellow POW Orson Swindle says they knew him from his movies and political advocacy and that newer prisoners told them that Reagan had taken up the POWs' cause. McCain, who was elected an Arizona congressman in 1982, during the Reagan administration, is within his rights in casting himself as a Reagan supporter. McCain was also an outspoken advocate of the Iraq troop surge by President Bush -- who, unlike Reagan, is not named -- when the war was at its most unpopular.
But the ad's claim of "strong conservative principles" simply ignores the spate of issues on which McCain has clashed with his party's right wing, including immigration, campaign finance reform and his votes against Bush's major tax cuts. McCain hopes the Reagan glow will help dim memories of those fierce disagreements with conservatives.
Posted at 12:51 PM ET on Feb 1, 2008
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