The Washington Times reported that “Sen. John McCain [R-AZ] emerged from yesterday's elections as one of Republicans' only winners as Democrats made solid gains and both parties turn an eye toward 2008,” but offered no explanation to support the claim. In fact, there are indications that the opposite might be true -- issues and candidates supported by McCain were repudiated by voters in the November 7 election.
In a November 8 front-page article titled “McCain gains political capital in elections,” Washington Times reporter Stephen Dinan reported that “Sen. John McCain [R-AZ] emerged from yesterday's elections as one of Republicans' only winners as Democrats made solid gains and both parties turn an eye toward 2008,” even as Dinan quoted a Republican strategist asserting that McCain assumed the role of “party stalwart ... in a cycle when it was not easy to be a party stalwart.” Dinan offered no explanation as to how McCain -- purportedly campaigning for others as a “party stalwart” in a party that suffered significant losses -- gained any “political capital,” other than quoting a Republican strategist saying: “There's going to be a batch of people who are going to personally owe McCain and there's going to be another batch of people who are going to have to rethink their view of him.”
In fact, there are indications that the opposite might be true -- issues for which McCain has expressed firm support were repudiated by voters in the November 7 election, and two prominent Arizona congressmen McCain campaigned for lost their bids for re-election.
McCain is a strong supporter of the Iraq war, and as recently as October 20, during an interview with CBS News' Katie Couric, restated his position that the United States should send more troops to Iraq. However, the Iraq war, and McCain's specific position on the war, are very unpopular with the electorate. According to CNN's nationwide exit poll for the House races, only 17 percent of voters supported sending more troops to Iraq. By contrast, 55 percent favored withdrawing all or some of U.S. troops in Iraq, and those voters broke for Democrats by lopsided margins.
South Dakota abortion ban
In March, McCain issued contradictory statements indicating his support for a controversial South Dakota bill that sought to ban all abortions except in cases in which the woman's life was endangered. At the time, a McCain spokesman said that the senator “would have signed” the South Dakota bill but added that McCain “would also take the appropriate steps under state law -- in whatever state -- to ensure that the exceptions of rape, incest or life of the mother were included” -- without explaining how he could do both. According to a November 8 Reuters article, South Dakota voters rejected the abortion ban by a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent.
Arizona same-sex marriage ban
McCain supported Arizona's Proposition 107, a proposed amendment to the state constitution declaring that “only a union between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage by this state or its political subdivisions,” and even appeared in two television ads urging voters to pass the amendment. On November 8, the Associated Press reported that “by 51 percent to 49 percent, Arizonans voted down Proposition 107, which would have amended the state's Constitution to ban same-sex marriage.”
McCain campaigned for and endorsed Arizona Republican congressmen J.D. Hayworth and Randy Graf, both of whom issued press releases (here and here) touting McCain's endorsement. Hayworth lost to Democrat Harry Mitchell by four points, while Graf lost to Democrat Gabrielle Giffords by 12 points.
From Stephen Dinan's November 8 Washington Times article:
Sen. John McCain emerged from yesterday's elections as one of Republicans' only winners as Democrats made solid gains and both parties turn an eye toward 2008.
The Arizona Republican, who wasn't up for re-election, rallied to the side of Republican candidates at 131 events -- a strong showing that displayed his rising popularity. His strength was underscored Monday when Charlie Crist, Florida's new Republican governor, chose to skip a scheduled rally with President Bush for an event with Mr. McCain.
“There's going to be a batch of people who are going to personally owe McCain and there's going to be another batch of people who are going to have to rethink their view of him,” said Michael McKenna, a Republican strategist and pollster.
“He was a pretty solid party stalwart this go around, in a cycle when it was not easy to be a party stalwart.”