In discussing Sen. John McCain's endorsement of President Bush in the March 9-12 Southern Republican Leadership Conference presidential straw poll on MSNBC's Hardball, Chuck Todd, editor in chief of the National Journal's The Hotline weblog, asserted that, for McCain, “right now, rallying around the president is the maverick thing to do.”
On the March 13 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, Chuck Todd, editor in chief of the National Journal's The Hotline weblog, asserted that, for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), “right now, rallying around the president is the maverick thing to do.” The next day, Republican strategist Ed Rogers, who served as deputy assistant to former President George H.W. Bush and worked in the Reagan White House in the Office of Political Affairs, also appeared on Hardball, echoing Todd's statement and host Chris Matthews's characterization of McCain as a "maverick." Rogers stated that McCain's self-alignment with President Bush is “the maverick position right now.”
Todd made his comments in response to Matthews, who asked him to comment on McCain's urging of attendees at the March 9-12 Southern Republican Leadership Conference (SRLC) to vote for President Bush in the SRLC presidential straw poll sponsored by The Hotline and McCain's defense of the Bush administration's decision to allow a company owned by the government of Dubai to take over port operations in six U.S. cities. Todd cited an article in the March 13 issue of Newsweek magazine by chief political correspondent Howard Fineman that touted McCain's “maverick history” and “maverick's campaign,” while noting that the " '08 strategy that [McCain] and his circle have decided to pursue" is to “build out their campaign with members of the Bush circle.” Fineman's article quoted an unnamed “McCain strategist” who asked: “Is there a playbook for how to run as an insider and outsider, establishment and anti-establishment? ... If you find it, let me know.”
Rogers also made his statements in response to a question by Matthews, who asked Rogers to comment on how “John McCain, who everyone knows is a maverick ... was the biggest lovey-dovey there [at the SRLC] with the president.” Rogers stated: “In case you didn't notice, that's the maverick position right now.” He added that “everybody running for president right now ... is trying to show their independence” from Bush, but “McCain is probably the only person with the self-confidence ... and the credibility ... and the history to not have to do that.”
From the March 13 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
MATTHEWS: But what is he [McCain] up to? He's almost the peppermint twins now with the president. He defends him on the Dubai ports. Nobody defends him. He defended him this weekend to the point of saying, “Vote for him not me.” What's all this sacrificial “I love Bush” about?
TODD: Well, you know, it's interesting, and it was something that Howard Fineman put in his Newsweek piece that was on MSNBC.com. And it was from a McCain strategist talking about how hard it is to try to figure out how McCain is trying to be both a front-runner and an insurgent still, right?
Still sort of keep his maverick image while still trying to be -- also create the aura of inevitability and be a front-runner. He's never been a front-runner before. He was always the insurgent. So, right now, rallying around the president is the maverick thing to do.
MATTHEWS: What was interesting, Ed Rogers, and you're the Republican at this panel here, was that John McCain, who everyone knows is a maverick, and everyone knows he's a solo fighter pilot out there, was the biggest lovey-dovey there was there with the president [Bush did not actually attend the SRLC]. What's the peppermint twins all about here?
ROGERS: In case you didn't notice, that's the maverick position right now. I mean, for better or for worse, everybody running for president right now --
MATTHEWS: -- is running away from (inaudible) --
ROGERS: -- is trying to show their independence and trying to show that they're not just more of the same, but they have some sort of independent bearing and presence. McCain is probably the only person with the self-confidence to not have -- and the credibility to not have -- and the history to not have to do that.
MATTHEWS: You know, a nice big dog comes up against your side and rubs up against you, that's what he was doing this weekend with the president.