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McCain weighs a Lieberman surprise


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Talk about game over...surely McCain is not stupid enough to do this is he? He will alienate the right and left with one swoop...

McCain weighs a Lieberman surprise


John McCain is seriously considering choosing a pro-abortion-rights running mate despite vocal resistance from conservatives, with former Democratic vice presidential nominee Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) very much in the mix, close McCain advisers say.

Under strong consideration: former Pennsylvania Republican Gov. Tom Ridge, and Lieberman, who was Al Gore’s running mate in 2000.

Multiple GOP sources say that party officials in Washington and in the states have been contacted by the McCain campaign in the past two weeks and asked about the fallout from such a choice. One person familiar with the calls said the party was being instructed to prepare for different candidate prototypes — including one in the mold of Lieberman, who is an independent but still caucuses with the Democrats.

One obstacle for Lieberman may be legal. A GOP official said that since he is not a Republican, Lieberman may have a challenge being certified on some state ballots.

But GOP sources say McCain and his close friend Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) still haven’t given up hope on making what some believe would be a game-changing decision by tapping Lieberman.

Lieberman’s office declined to discuss the topic. “Those questions are best left to the McCain campaign at this time,” said Erika Masonhall, Lieberman’s Senate press secretary.

Ridge also appears to still be on the short list, GOP sources say. McCain likes the fact that Ridge is a Vietnam War hero with a working-class background. Ridge worked in the White House as Bush’s homeland security adviser before becoming Secretary of Homeland Security, and could help McCain with his further reform of the nation’s intelligence apparatus.

“He’s McCain’s kind of guy,” said a close friend of the candidate.

McCain, who in the past had said it would be hard to choose a supporter of abortion rights, told Steve Hayes of The Weekly Standard last week that he would not rule it out.

One source close to the campaign who is sympathetic to such a plan sketched out a scenario in which Lieberman was the choice.

“First, if your instinct is to run on experience, it doesn’t hurt to have a vice president who’s got it, too,” said this source, a conservative.

But more than that, according to this source, picking Lieberman would dramatically support McCain’s theme that he puts “country first” above all else.

“It would fit well into the narrative of his not having any politics in the White House,” said the source. “No more Dick Morris, no more Karl Rove — we’re governing here. It’s an easy, natural message for McCain and it implies a one-term pledge without actually saying it.”

As for the inevitable blowback from the right, this person acknowledged the convention would be “a messy week,” representing a “shock to the system of a pro-life party.”

But would it be worth it? “The question is: On Sept. 15 or 25, is he in better shape or not?” the source asked.

McCain allies are hopeful that the candidate’s strong statement on abortion Saturday night at Rick Warren’s California church could assuage any concerns from the right-to-life community about what a supporter of abortion rights on the ticket would mean.

“I will be a pro-life president and this presidency will have pro-life policies,” McCain said at Saddleback. “That's my commitment; that's my commitment to you.”

Others in the party — including several veterans of President Bush’s past campaigns — say such a choice would be untenable and are dreading the prospect of what Lieberman, or perhaps even Ridge,would mean to a base that is already less than enthusiastic about McCain.

“Lieberman would blow things up,” said the American Conservative Union’s David Keene. “That would be like Obama picking some right-winger that agrees with him on one thing.”

As for the convention, Keene said Lieberman’s selection would set off some sort of “protest” among the party’s rank and file. Tapping Ridge, Keene said, wouldn’t be as bad, but would still “overshadow” St. Paul.

Already, one website has begun a petition aimed at dissuading McCain from tapping a supporter of abortion rights.

“Please keep Senator McCain and his key advisers in your prayers as he nears a decision on his VP pick, and please sign the petition and pass on to like-minded pro-lifers,” Billy Valentine, a young Republican and former supporter of Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback’s presidential bid, writes above the petition on “Catholics for McCain.”

Other Republican regulars, speaking anonymously so as not to anger the party’s nominee, warn of the consequences.

Another well-placed Republican official who is in regular contact with McCain’s campaign predicted a contentious gathering in St. Paul.

“You will not have a unanimous vote at the convention, that much I can tell you,” said this source. “There will be some blowback.”

Many leading conservatives have strongly pushed back on McCain’s suggestion that he might choose a pro-choice running mate.

For the third day in a row, talk radio guru Rush Limbaugh castigated the idea Tuesday on his radio show, saying the mainstream media — “the drive-by media,” in his parlance — is enthralled by the idea.

“The drive-bys are just hoping for it, because they know the base will totally turn on McCain if this is the case,” Limbaugh said. “If he picks a pro-choice running mate, it’s not going to be pretty, and the drive-bys know it."

“The question is how to get the message to McCain," he said. "You don’t get in McCain’s face and say, ‘Don’t do it.’ That’s a dumb thing to do. [You have to say something like] ‘Sen. McCain, we know you’re smart … and we know you don’t want to lose.’”

The answer to what McCain is thinking could come soon. Republicans were told that barring a change, McCain plans to appear with his pick at an arena in Dayton, Ohio, on Aug. 29 — a week from Friday, and the day after Barack Obama accepts the Democratic nomination in a Denver stadium.

Campaign advisers said Obama’s performance is likely to be so strong they think it will “scare” Republicans, and they’re eager to change the conversation to their own No. 2 the next morning.

Obama is likely to make his pick this Friday, Saturday or Sunday, according to advisers. But they warned it could come any time.


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I'm seeing on NBC News tonight that Lieberman is on the "very short list." I'm telling you right now, the only vote I cast will be a protest vote for someone other than McCain if he pulls this with Lieberman or Tom Ridge. And I will actively make the case to my family and friends that normally vote Republican to do the same. If this is what McCain and the GOP thinks of its conservative base, a message needs to be sent.

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