A McCain in the Hand Is Good News for Bush

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Talk about irony. John McCain built his Republican insurgency on branding himself an outsider, a man whose integrity and authenticity prevented him from garnering the many party endorsements that befell his deep-pocketed opponent. Yet McCain is poised to become the most important and influential endorser the Bush campaign will likely receive. On Sunday McCain told Wolf Blitzer on CNN's "Late Edition" that he planned to begin stumping for Bush "sooner rather than later" — the strongest indication yet that the two sides have made amends. What he didn't say, however, was what concessions he sought or received in return for his blessings.

Having considerably underestimated the Vietnam War hero's sway over the national electorate, it appears that the GOP brass is not taking any chances that may alienate the Arizona senator. After all, McCain won seven state primaries — some of them decisively — by soaking up the centrist and crossover vote, and polls show that those who voted for McCain continue to trust him more than either Bush or Gore. The word from the McCain camp is that he hasn't held his endorsement for ransom, but it hardly seems a coincidence that Bush has been speaking more and more about rehabbing the campaign finance system in recent weeks and has even championed a McCain-like proposal for enlisting retired military personnel to serve as teachers. It may only be a question of time before Bush starts using "Star Wars" metaphors.