Russert asserted GOP says McCain will appeal to states "moving back to a more ... moderate Republican" -- but he's a "conservative"

››› ››› ANDREW IRONSIDE

On MSNBC, Tim Russert said "Republicans have talked with the McCain candidacy the potential of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Iowa. They see a lot of those Midwest states that had been drifting away from the Republicans moving back to a more mainstream moderate Republican." But McCain identifies himself as a "conservative" and has recently moved to the right on a number of issues including immigration and taxes to align himself with the base of the Republican Party.

During MSNBC's coverage of Sen. John McCain's victories in the March 4 primaries in Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island, and Vermont, NBC Washington bureau chief Tim Russert said that Republicans say that "with the McCain candidacy," "[t]hey see a lot of those Midwest states that had been drifting away from the Republicans moving back to a more mainstream moderate Republican -- now that John McCain has won the nomination, we can use those terms. They see those states in play." In fact, McCain identifies himself as a "conservative" and has recently moved to the right on a number of issues. Russert was responding to a question from MSNBC host Chris Matthews, who said: "He [McCain] said we make history; we don't live with it or whatever. Making history would mean breaking with the curve of events. People want change. McCain says, "OK, I'll give you a certain amount of change, but mainly, I'm going to give you something close to center." How does he do it state by state?"

In fact, McCain has shifted or even reversed his positions on several issues, including immigration and taxes, to align himself with the base of the Republican Party. McCain also frequently refers to himself as a "conservative," most recently in his February 7 speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, in which he asserted that he is "proud to be a conservative" and that his "record in public office taken as a whole is the record of a mainstream conservative."

Matthews also stated: "Let me ask you about the Blue-Red State divide that you and I talk about, you especially, with regard to the key states to look at. If you look at the latest words from the McCain camp, they're basically looking at -- a new look at California, hoping to put it in play." But he did not note that according to the most recent state poll, McCain trails both [Hillary] Clinton and [Barack] Obama by more than 20 points in California. A SurveyUSA poll, conducted February 15-17 with a margin of error of +/- 4.4 percentage points, found Clinton leading McCain in California 58 percent to 35 percent, and Obama leading McCain 61 percent to 34 percent. Further, significantly more Californians voted in the 2008 Democratic primary than in the Republican one -- 4.4 million compared with 2.5 million.

Earlier in the primary night coverage, Matthews asserted: "Tim, I was just thinking that throughout the history of the conservative parties in this country, whether they be called the Whigs or the Republicans, when in trouble, they've gone to a military man. Whether it's Ike or it's William Henry Harrison, or Zachary Taylor, or General Grant, of course. And here we have John McCain, very much a Marshall man, not running as a politician but a man who's a standup soldier for his country, it seems."

From the MSNBC's coverage of the March 4 presidential primaries and caucus:

MATTHEWS: Tim Russert's NBC's Washington bureau chief, and of course, moderator of Meet the Press. Tim, I was just thinking that throughout the history of the conservative parties in this country, whether they be called the Whigs or the Republicans, when in trouble, they've gone to a military man. Whether it's Ike or it's William Henry Harrison, or Zachary Taylor, or General Grant, of course. And here we have John McCain, very much a Marshall man, not running as a politician but a man who's a standup soldier for his country, it seems.

RUSSERT: I thought he was most energized when he used the phrase "Fight, fight for America." John McCain loves a good fight, and there's no doubt he's going to be a very combative candidate. Try to keep the campaign civil, but he will be combative.

[...]

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the Blue-Red State divide that you and I talk about, you especially, with regard to the key states to look at. If you look at the latest words from the McCain camp, they're basically looking at -- a new look at California, hoping to put it in play. Maine, of course Connecticut, New Jersey, I think also Pennsylvania if the Democrats can't get their act together, certainly Ohio.

Where do you see the opportunity for McCain to pull back from history? He said we make history; we don't live with it or whatever. Making history would mean breaking with the curve of events. People want change. McCain says, "OK, I'll give you a certain amount of change, but mainly, I'm going to give you something close to center." How does he do it state by state?

RUSSERT: Well, the Republicans have talked with the McCain candidacy the potential of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Iowa. They see a lot of those Midwest states that had been drifting away from the Republicans moving back to a more mainstream moderate Republican -- now that John McCain has won the nomination, we can use those terms.

They see those states in play. California still difficult, no doubt about it. On the other hand, Chris, the Democrats see states like Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico -- they had hoped Arizona but with McCain's candidacy, that's gone. But they see those Rocky Mountain states back in play.

MATTHEWS: So, you're sticking with the Southwest. I've heard this theory, Tim. Months ago, you had this.

RUSSERT: Yeah.

MATTHEWS: You are sticking to the theory. It's not Florida. It's not Ohio. I love studying your pattern. It is the Southwest states, still.

RUSSERT: Yeah. But I think Ohio tonight, hearing Senator McCain on trade, I think that provides a real opportunity.

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John McCain, 2008 Elections
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