Drudge does Mitt the great favor today of reviving this March 2007 story about how McCain toyed with leaving the Republican Party and throwing the Senate to the Democrats in 2001. And before we call it ancient history, let's remember that he considered Kerry's offer to become his running mate in 2004. I hope this story gets a lot of play this weekend. Drudge is very influential -- there is frequently a direct link between his page and the nightly news.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was close to leaving the Republican Party in 2001, weeks before then-Sen. Jim Jeffords (Vt.) famously announced his decision to become an Independent, according to former Democratic lawmakers who say they were involved in the discussions.
In interviews with The Hill this month, former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and ex-Rep. Tom Downey (D-N.Y.) said there were nearly two months of talks with the maverick lawmaker following an approach by John Weaver, McCain’s chief political strategist.
It was McCain’s top strategist who came to them.
Downey said Weaver is well aware that their discussion was much more than typical Washington chit-chat.
Daschle said that throughout April and May of 2001, he and McCain “had meetings and conversations on the floor and in his office, I think in mine as well, about how we would do it, what the conditions would be. We talked about committees and his seniority … [A lot of issues] were on the table.”
Some of the meetings Daschle referred to are detailed in the former senator’s 2003 book.
ther senators who played major roles in the intense recruiting effort, according to Democrats, were then-Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) as well as Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
A source close to Edwards said Daschle’s comments are accurate.
In one article, Marshall Wittman, a McCain loyalist and strategist six years ago, put the odds of McCain leaving the Republican Party at “50-50.”
Weaver acknowledged this week that the senator did talk to Democrats about leaving the GOP.
Daschle stressed that McCain never considered becoming a Democrat, but was close to becoming an Independent. Downey said, “I actually thought during the initial stages of this that [McCain leaving the Republican Party] was almost a certain deal.”
Daschle pointed out that few, if any, of McCain’s people were hired by the Bush administration. “John didn’t think that was right,” Daschle wrote, “that his staff should be penalized like that.”
Soon after Bush was inaugurated as the nation’s 43rd president, McCain was working with Democrats on many issues, ranging from gun control to healthcare to campaign-finance reform. McCain’s links to Democrats were so clear that Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) — now a close ally of McCain — publicly criticized him in the early part of 2001 for keeping “unusual company.”
Jeffords pulled the trigger on May 24, 2001, throwing control of the Senate to Democrats. Chafee and McCain then broke off their discussions with Democratic leaders, according to Democrats.
Asked why this news hasn’t come out before, Downey said, “It’s a mystery to me… It’s never been written about, never got in the paper... There were meetings in offices. You can’t deny [these meetings took place]. They occurred.”
On June 2, 2001, The Washington Post ran a front-page story with the headline “McCain is Considering Leaving GOP; Arizona Senator Might Launch a Third-Party Challenge to Bush in 2004.”
The article, written in the wake of the Jeffords’s announcement, noted that Daschle and his wife were visiting the McCains at the senator’s home in Arizona. But by that time, McCain had decided to stay a Republican, according to Daschle, who wrote that plans for the June weekend getaway were made months earlier when McCain was mulling changing his party affiliation.
In 2004, [McCain rejected] an offer from Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) to become his vice presidential nominee.