Democrats say McCain almost left the GOP in 2001

In yet more news which should make conservatives jump for joy that McCain is heading toward the Republican nomination, an old report has surfaced from which alleges that McCain almost jumped ship from the Republican Party in 2001:

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.

Democrats had contacted Jeffords and then-Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.) in the early months of 2001 about switching parties, but in McCain’s case, they said, it was McCain’s top strategist who came to them.

Some of the details are sketchy but the fact that it was McCain’s top strategist who contact the Democrats about making the change could speak volumes for where McCain’s true principles actually lie.

However, McCain has countered these claims and said he never considered leaving:

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.”

Absolutely not so, according to McCain. In a statement released by his campaign, McCain said, “As I said in 2001, I never considered leaving the Republican Party, period.”

Some of the meetings Daschle referred to are detailed in the former senator’s 2003 book.

Other 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.).

I guess anything is possible and there’s probably no way to know for certain since this was now 7 years ago and is based largely on conversations which may or may not have taken place. I guess there point here is that McCain has either come full circle in embracing conservatism or he is simply using the Republican Party to advance a moderate agenda.

While it didn’t seem clear to me if he was going to become an Independent or an all-out Democrat, he apparently may have been considering dropping the (R).

My question is, what will this mean for Super Tuesday if this story becomes big? Will Republicans who are supporting McCain give him a second look?



Apparently this story is about 10 months old and was originally published on March 28, 2007. I guess it’s still relevant but at this point, I think it would indicate that Republican voters don’t seem to care.

  • Jay Em

    The more I hear of McCain the more I don’t like the man!
    I don’t know what good he could do for America as President.

  • Michael

    I actually remember these news reports coming out in 2001 about McCain. This was right after the vicious primary dispute between McCain and George Bush, and his workings with Senator Feingold et. al.

    I do not remember McCain actually ever coming out and declaring anything, from my hazy recollection it was mostly the media which drummed this up. I do remember McCain issuing a speech to confirm his Republican ties and back the newly appointed Republican president.

  • Andrew

    “…based largely on conversations which may or may not have taken place.”

    That doesn’t say enough? Let’s try for once to stick to facts when deciding who to vote for.

  • Jay Em

    “stick to the facts” is a great idea Andrew. So can you come up with any facts that came out of McCain in this debate?
    The only fact I come up with is that he is pretty old!

  • Sonny

    In the 1976 Republican primary, the media treated the outsider Ronald Reagan the way they’re currently treating the outsider Mitt Romney.

    In the 1976 Republican primary, the media treated the establishment candidate Gerald Ford the way they’re currently treating the establishment candidate John McCain.

    The media helped push Gerald Ford to the GOP nomination in 1976. Then the media turned on Ford and he lost to Jimmy Carter.

    The media is helping push John McCain to the GOP nomination in 2008. Then the media will turn on McCain and he’ll lose to Hillary Clinton.

    History always repeats itself when people don’t learn the lessons from the past. I hope that conservative voters in the remaining GOP primaries wake up and don’t let history repeat itself in 2008.

    Like Ronald Reagan in 1976, Mitt Romney was Governor of a liberal-leaning state who’s political positions evolved from being moderate into conservative.

    Like Ronald Reagan in 1976, Mitt Romney is not part of the Washington establishment.

    Like Ronald Reagan in 1976, Mitt Romney made his career outside of politics.

    Like Gerald Ford in 1976, John McCain is part of the Washington establishment.

    Like Gerald Ford in 1976, John McCain made politics his career.

    Mitt Romney has many similarities to Ronald Reagan.

    John McCain has many similarities to Gerald Ford.