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Romney Said to Top McCain's VP List Despite Past Feud

June 30, 2008

Mike Allen of the Politico reports this morning that former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney now tops John McCain's list of potential running mates. The GOP insiders he spoke to claim that Romney's business background, dazzling teeth, perfect hair, high-profile family roots in swing state Michigan - and his ability to "raise $50 million in 60 days" from the Mormon community nationwide - have boosted Romney's VP stock.
Unfortunately, many in the McCain camp remain suspicious of Romney, if for no other reason that John McCain hates the man. Their clashes during the Republican primaries, highlighted by Romney's accusations about McCain's out of control temper, might have something to do with it.
Which isn't to say John McCain and Mitt Romney have nothing in common. The campaigns of both men quickly ran into trouble over the issue of divestment from Iran, which quickly ensnared both McCain's lobbyist braintrust and Romney himself. On many occasions, John McCain has promised to follow Osama Bin Laden to "the gates of hell;" when he endorsed McCain in February, Mitt Romney promised to go with him. Like the millionaire McCain, the the half-billionaire son of auto magnate George Romney lambasted the "elitist view" of Barack Obama. And to be sure, John McCain badly needs money and Mitt Romney not only has it, but has already proven he can help him get more.
But the bad blood between the two doubtless still exists. During the GOP primaries, McCain and Romney clashed bitterly over Mitt's supposed Iraq withdrawal timelines and Mac's questionable conservative cred. Worse yet, in January the Romney campaign put out a memo showcasing McCain's legendary anger management problems and calling into question his fitness for office.
As his make-or-break Florida primary contest against John McCain approached in late January, Mitt Romney abandoned his pledge that "I'm not going to talk about the character of the people I'm running against." Instead, the Romney campaign produced a video and an accompanying memo titled, "The McCain Way: Attack Republicans - A Top 10 List." Echoing many of the episodes detailed in Sunday's WaPo piece, Mitt Romney refuted John McCain's past claims of serenity ("Do I insult anybody or fly off the handle or anything like that? No, I don't.") going back to 1999.
Sounding more like The Real McCain author Cliff Schecter than John McCain's #2, Romney in his top 10 list included some of McCain's greatest hits - literally. In addition to dropping the f-bomb on fellow Republican Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and John Cornyn (R-TX), McCain "repeatedly" called New Mexico's Pete Domenici an "a**hole." While the Romney list features some comparatively minor McCain blow-ups towards Dick Cheney, Mitch McConnell and other leading lights of the GOP, it also claims that in 1995, John McCain "had a scuffle" with then 92-year old Strom Thurmond.
Here are the Romney campaign's top 10 episodes of "the McCain way" of rage and fury. Only the heading for each is shown below; the details and list of references are provided in the full memo, which is available at the Boston Herald:

  1. Defending His Amnesty Bill, Sen. McCain Lost His Temper And Screamed, "F*ck You!" At Texas Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).
  2. In 2000, Sen. McCain Ran An Attack Ad Comparing Then-Gov. George W. Bush To Bill Clinton.
  3. Sen. McCain Repeatedly Called Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) an "A**hole," Causing A Fellow GOP Senator To Say, "I Didn't Want This Guy Anywhere Near A Trigger."
  4. Sen. McCain Had A Heated Exchange With Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) And Called Him A "F*cking Jerk."
  5. In 1995, Sen. McCain Had A "Scuffle" With 92-Year-Old Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-SC) On The Senate Floor.
  6. Sen. McCain Accused Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Of the "Most Egregious Incident" Of Corruption He Had Seen In The Senate.
  7. Sen. McCain Attacked Christian Leaders And Republicans In A Blistering Speech During The 2000 Campaign.
  8. Sen. McCain Attacked Vice President Cheney.
  9. Celebrating His First Senate Election In 1986, Sen. McCain Screamed At And Harassed A Young Republican Volunteer.
  10. Sen. McCain "Publicly Abused" Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL).

As it turns out, Mitt Romney's vice presidential ambitions have already encountered opposition among right-wing hard liners. Conservative godfather Paul Weyrich, who backed Romney's presidential bid, publicly came out against him in April. Weyrich joined two dozen other conservative activists in signing a letter titled, "No Mitt."
Still, politics produces strange bedfellows. Back in 1980, Ronald Reagan tapped his former rival George H.W. Bush, the man who labeled his supply-side tax cuts "voodoo economics," to be his number two. No doubt, Mitt Romney called John McCain far worse. Yet despite their personal antipathies, the two may end up together in what could be a dream ticket - or just a Republican nightmare.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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