For McCain, These May Be the Wrong Samaritans

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John McCain could be forgiven for feeling like an Iranian liberal, but Democrats rallying to his defense may be administering the kiss of death. New York State GOP leaders, who strongly support George W. Bush, have sought to exclude McCain's name from the primary ballot in 16 of the state's 31 congressional districts — a tactic popular with Iranian hard-liners when reformist candidates run for office. But Democrats on the State Board of Elections were reportedly planning to vote Wednesday to allow the Arizona senator's name to appear on the Republican ballot in eight upstate congressional districts. The GOP decision to bar McCain must be ratified, for certain districts, by the board, which comprises two Republicans and two Democrats.

McCain has already been excluded from three districts over which the State Board has no jurisdiction, with GOP officials citing technical grounds such as numerical errors in the addresses provided by signatories to pro-McCain petitions. Although the apparent strong-arming by Bush supporters is grist to the mill of McCain's insurgency — he likened the tactics of Governor George Pataki and the state GOP pooh-bahs to those of the old Soviet leadership — being defended by the Democrats may not help his quest for the Republican nomination. The straight-talking champion of campaign finance reform, after all, is already something of a favorite of the media corps, which is viewed with a dose of suspicion by the GOP rank and file. Being seen as the Democrats' favorite Republican may make McCain a sitting duck for a right-tilting Bush.