McCain says he may campaign with Bush soon
NEW YORK (CNN) -- U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, is hinting at a new phase in efforts to show unity within the Republican Party after a fractious primary battle with Texas Gov. George W. Bush for the party's presidential nomination.
McCain indicated Sunday on CNN's "Late Edition" that he is poised to meet with and campaign for Bush, more than a month after Bush secured enough delegates to win the nomination by defeating McCain in most of the Super Tuesday primaries.
"Late Edition" host Wolf Blitzer asked McCain whether he expected to be meeting with and campaigning for Bush within the next week, two weeks or month. "I think sooner rather than later," McCain said.
McCain also said, "Well we had a good conversation about a week ago, and I'm sure we'll be having good conversations in the future. ... I'd like to have some further understandings with him, and I'm sure we'll reach those in the days and weeks ahead."
A reconciliation between the two will have to overcome the tone of their rivalry during the campaign. There were accusations of using "negative" campaign ads and -- with regard to McCain's criticisms of Christian right leaders Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell -- "playing the religion card."
'I'm not making any demands'
"I'm not making any demands nor doing any negotiating," McCain said of his recent phone
conversations with Bush. "I have to also have an allegiance to those millions of voters who
trusted in me and my commitment to a reform agenda."
McCain told CNN, 'I don't think I can serve the country as effectively as I can in the Senate if I were vice president.'
Since McCain suspended his campaign, leaving the fate of his delegates up in the air, both he and Bush have blamed their continued separation on busy schedules. Bush has continued to campaign, focusing Friday and Saturday on California, while McCain has returned
to his duties in the U.S. Senate.
McCain also has begun stumping heavily for House and Senate candidates. The Arizona senator was in New York on Sunday, where New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is expected to seek the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate.
Looking to 2004?
McCain's appearances for GOP candidates have some political observers wondering if he is taking a page out of the strategy books of previous political comebacks.
"Not only did Ronald Reagan do this in '76," said Steve Roberts of U.S. News and World Report, "Richard Nixon followed this exact same playbook in the '60s -- helped him get the nomination in '68."
McCain said he has no such plan. "My strategy is to make sure that Governor Bush is the president of the United States," he said. "I just need to reach some understandings with him."
McCain also repeated Sunday that he would not seek nor accept his party's vice presidential nomination under any circumstances.