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 McCAIN Strikes Back

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James B. Lewis
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MessageSujet: Re: McCAIN Strikes Back   Dim 20 Jan - 5:49

Bah le score de Rudy m'enerve un peu
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Josh McGarry
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MessageSujet: Re: McCAIN Strikes Back   Dim 20 Jan - 16:20

Giuliani est dernier au classement general si on tient compte de l'abandon d'Hunter.

Position peu reluisante qu'il aura à coeur de changer en Floride.

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MessageSujet: Re: McCAIN Strikes Back   Dim 20 Jan - 16:52

Je pense sérieusement que GIuliani est fini. Cela fait des mois que tout le monde le prévient, et que tous les commentateurs affirment que sa stratégie le conduira a l'échec. Bien que je soit triste pour lui car j'aime bcp Giuliani, la course s'arrêtera à Miami pour lui... définitivement.

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MessageSujet: Re: McCAIN Strikes Back   Dim 20 Jan - 17:50

Je pense aussi qu'il aura beaucoup de mal mais tant que les sondages le donnent parmi les vainqueurs possibles en Floride, il est sage de ne pas l'ecarter.

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MessageSujet: Re: McCAIN Strikes Back   Lun 21 Jan - 14:26


Remarks by John McCain on South Carolina Primary Victory


January 19, 2008


Thank you, my friends, and thank you, South Carolina, for bringing us across the finish line first in the first in the south primary. It took us a while, but what's eight years among friends. It just gave us the opportunity to spend more time in this beautiful state; to talk with you and listen to you; and to come to admire all the more the deep patriotism of South Carolinians, who have sacrificed so much to defend our country from its enemies. It is a great privilege to have come to know so many of you, and I am very grateful for and humbled by the support you have given our campaign. Thank you especially, for braving the very un-South Carolina like weather today to exercise the first responsibility of an American; not just those South Carolinians who voted for us, but all of you who voted today for the candidate you believe is best suited to lead the country you love. I think I can speak for all of the Republican candidat es, when I say, South Carolinians are never just fair weather friends.

And, of course, I am deeply grateful to our South Carolina team, and to the many dedicated volunteers who gave so generously of their time and labor and kept us competitive in some pretty challenging times. I hope you know how much your friendship means to me. The debt I owe you is a privilege and an obligation, which I promise you, I will faithfully discharge.

I want to thank my wife, Cindy, the best campaigner in the family, and my daughters Meghan and Sidney, who are with us tonight, as well as my son, Doug, and our children who could not be here, and of course, my dear mother, Roberta McCain. It is obvious to me, and to all who know me, that we would not be where we are tonight, but for your love, encouragement and faith in me.

In the course of this campaign, I have tried as best I could, to tell people the truth about the challenges facing our country, and how I intend to address them. As I have said before, I know that before I can win your vote, I must earn your respect. And the only way I know how to do that is by being honest with you. I have tried to do that throughout this campaign, and to put my trust in your willingness to give me your fair consideration. So far, it seems to be working out just fine.

I am aware that for the last 28 years, the winner of the South Carolina primary has been the nominee of our party. We have a ways to go, of course. There are some tough contests ahead, starting tomorrow in the state of Florida. But, my friends, we are well on our way tonight. And I feel very good about our chances.

As pleased as we are that we have a reason to celebrate tonight, I know that I must keep foremost in my mind that I am not running for President to be somebody, but to do something. I am running to keep America safe, prosperous and proud. I am running to restore the trust of the American people in their government. I am running so that our children and their children will have even greater opportunities than the ones we were blessed with. I am running so that every person in this country, now and in generations to come, will know the same, sublime honor that has been the treasure of my life: to be proud to be an American.

I seek the nomination of our Party, because I am as confident today as I was when I first entered public life as a foot soldier in the Reagan Revolution that the principles of the Republican Party -- our confidence in the good sense and resourcefulness of free people -- are always in America's best interests. In war and peace, in good times and challenging ones, we have always known that the first responsibility of government it to keep this country safe from its enemies, and the American people free of a heavy handed government that spends too much of their money, and tries to do for them what they are better able to do for themselves. We want government to do its job, not your job; to do it better and to do it with less of your money; to defend our nation's security wisely and effectively, because the cost of our defense is so dear to us; to respect our values because they are the true source of our strength; to enforce t he rule of law that is first defense of freedom; to keep the promises it makes to us and not make promises it will not keep. We believe government should do only those things we cannot do individually, and then get out of the way so that the most industrious, ingenious, and enterprising people in the world can do what they have always done, build an even greater country than the one they inherited.

My friends, I know we are facing challenging economic times, and we must be responsive to the concerns of Americans who fear they are being left behind in the global economy. But nothing is inevitable in our country. We are the captains of our fate. We can overcome any challenge as long as we keep our courage, and stand by our defense of free markets, low taxes, and small government that have made America the greatest land of opportunity in the world.

I have served our country all my adult life, and I am prepared for the high office I seek. I asked South Carolinians to help give me the opportunity to serve the country I love a little while longer. You have done that, and I will never forget it. I promise you I will always put America -- her strength, her ideals, her future -- before every other consideration. Thank you, South Carolina, for your trust. I will not let you down, so help me God. Good night and God bless you as you have blessed me.
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MessageSujet: Re: McCAIN Strikes Back   Lun 21 Jan - 19:23

Huckabee, Norris Joke About McCain’s Age as GOP Candidates Race to Florida

http://youdecide08.foxnews.com/2008/01/20/huckabee-blames-thompson-for-his-second-place-showing/
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MessageSujet: Re: McCAIN Strikes Back   Lun 21 Jan - 19:51

C'est effectivement une excellente stratégie que d'attaquer un candidat sur son âge dans un Etat qui détient un nombre record de retraités. Si la seule chose qu'ils arrivent à reprocher à McCain, c'est son âge, alors c'est qu'ils sont à court d'arguments et qu'ils tirent leurs dernières cartouches.

Je ne prend pas Chuck Norris pour un grand stratège politique lol! .
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MessageSujet: Re: McCAIN Strikes Back   Lun 21 Jan - 20:02

Oui ,c'est vrai que la Floride est reputé dans le monde pour ses retraités Laughing .
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MessageSujet: Re: McCAIN Strikes Back   Lun 21 Jan - 20:11

Orlando Sentinel (FL): The Arizona Senator Is Clearly The Most Qualified Of The Contenders


By Editorial, Orlando Sentinel
January 20, 2008

Editorial

No clear front-runner has emerged among Republican presidential candidates after the party's early primaries. But there is a clear choice when it comes to the most qualified: U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

First elected to the House in 1982 and the Senate in 1986, Mr. McCain knows his way around Washington, D.C. But his maverick's record of taking on GOP leaders and special interests shows he can be the agent of change for which many voters are clamoring. He has been battling business as usual in the Capitol -- especially its weak ethics and irresponsible budgeting -- for years.

Mr. McCain is one of the most authoritative voices in Congress on national security and foreign affairs, two core responsibilities for any president. He understands that U.S. influence is rooted not only in military might, but also in maintaining strong alliances and American values such as the humane treatment of prisoners.

Like his rivals in this campaign, Mr. McCain has changed some of his positions for political expediency. He has courted the support of evangelical Christian leaders he once denounced as "agents of intolerance," and he has switched from opposing to supporting the Bush tax cuts.

But on two of his most controversial stands -- support for comprehensive immigration reform and more U.S. troops in Iraq -- he has stuck to his principles at the risk of sinking his campaign.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, by contrast, has abandoned positions that would have alienated his party's conservative base on abortion, stem-cell research, gay rights, gun control, taxes and immigration policy. Mr. Romney can boast of a successful track record in both business and government. But with his latest reinvention, it's hard to know what he really stands for, and what kind of president he might be.

Rudy Giuliani is rightly appreciated for his often effective leadership as New York's mayor, especially after the 9-11 attacks. His experience on foreign affairs, however, doesn't approach Mr. McCain's. And Mr. Giuliani's call for a massive new tax cut amid continuing deficits shows his commitment to fiscal responsibility isn't as strong.

Ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee deserves praise for injecting a civil tone into this year's campaign, but a series of gaffes has exposed his lack of depth on foreign affairs. His injection of religion into politics is troubling. And his lurches to the right on immigration and taxes mark an unfortunate break from his bipartisan and pragmatic style as governor.

Former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee has run such a lifeless campaign that it's still hard to imagine him finding the energy to be a successful president.

Mr. McCain stands out, even in this year's crowded field. He has taken positions with which we disagree, but his qualifications to be president are beyond dispute.

The Sentinel endorses John McCain for the nomination in Florida's Republican Primary.
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MessageSujet: Re: McCAIN Strikes Back   Lun 21 Jan - 20:35

Et qui appuis Giuliani ? Sad
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MessageSujet: Re: McCAIN Strikes Back   Mar 22 Jan - 0:01


The Florida Times-Union: McCain Makes His Case


By Senator John McCain, The Florida Times-Union
January 21, 2008

Three decades ago, a visionary politician described the dangers in the world. It was, like today, a time when some doubted America's goodness and greatness.

Many argued for reconciliation with our global adversary at the time. But this man held firm. He did what he thought was right.

He criticized the liberal Democrats' foreign policy of weakness and vacillation. He called for resolve and firmness in dealing with the Soviets.
Fortunately, this man, Gov. Ronald Reagan, became president.

Today, the challenges are at least as severe as they were when Reagan stood tall. And, today, the differences between Republicans and Democrats on national security are every bit as stark as they were 30 years ago.

I believe our nation's best days are ahead and remain committed to an America with a strong national defense; a smaller, more accountable government; a robust economy with abundant opportunity for all who seek it; and a nation of traditional values that protects the rights of the unborn and the traditional family.

Today, we confront a titanic struggle against Islamic extremism that will not be won quickly or easily. But we will win it, despite the efforts of leading Democratic presidential candidates who vote against funding for our troops engaged in war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It is up to us and our determination for victory. I, too, look forward to bringing our troops home, but I know that we must bring them home in victory and with honor. We must recognize that our enemies are in this fight to win.

At home, Americans have lost trust in their government. The ambition of my presidency will be to restore that trust.

I will fight to ensure a political process worthy of the sacrifices that have been made by so many to keep us free and proud and will see to it that the institutions of self-government are respected pillars of democracy.

Special interests have too much influence in Washington. That will end. I will secure the border, bring spending under control, veto pork-barrel spending bills and keep taxes low by reforming a tax code that is too complex and too burdensome.

I will restore trust in government by securing our nation's borders. I will work to modernize Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and bring accountability, choice and competition to our schools, so our children are equipped for the best jobs of the 21st century.

I will also nominate strict constructionist judges who understand that their job is to rule on what the law says and not to impose their opinions through judicial fiat.

We are in need of bold solutions to address health care in America, an issue that touches every family in this nation and impacts our economy and fiscal outlook.

But the answer is not to increase the amount of bureaucracy through a government-controlled health care or single-payer system.

The answer is to enhance the ability of the market to offer affordable and portable insurance options for as many Americans as possible, and to help those without insurance to access the health care system with the dignity and quality care that all Americans expect and deserve.

I am running for president to protect our country from harm and defeat its enemies. I am running for president to restore trust in our government and to ensure it remains worthy of that honor.

I am not running to leave our biggest problems to an unluckier generation of leaders, but to fix them now, and fix them well.

I am running for president to make sure America maintains its place as the political and economic leader of the world; the country that doesn't fear change, but makes change work for us; the country that does not look longingly to the past, but aspires to even better days.

I am running for president of the United States, a blessed country, a proud country, a hopeful country, the most powerful and prosperous country and the greatest force for good on Earth.
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MessageSujet: Re: McCAIN Strikes Back   Mar 22 Jan - 17:39

Election 2008: New York Republican Presidential Primary


Rasmussen reports, January 16-17, 2008

John McCAIN : 26%
Rudy GIULIANI : 20%
Mitt ROMNEY : 13%
Fred THOMPSON : 12%
Mike HUCKABEE : 11%
Ron PAUL : 6%
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MessageSujet: Re: McCAIN Strikes Back   Mar 22 Jan - 22:12

Un eptit retour en forme de Giuliani...
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MessageSujet: Re: McCAIN Strikes Back   Mer 23 Jan - 0:55

Bonne nouvelle !

Un sondage du 20 janvier, le dernier sondage de l'institut Rasmussen, place Mitt Romney en tête en Floride avec 25 points, contre 20 pour McCain et 19 pour Giuliani...

A suivre !...
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MessageSujet: Re: McCAIN Strikes Back   Mer 23 Jan - 1:25

Ah oui, effectivement bonne nouvelle !

Faisons un beau cadeau aux démocrates en investissement un candidat qui va se prendre une veste monumentale en novembre contre n'importe quel adversaire (Obama, Clinton ou Edwards au choix). Romney pourrait peut-être l'emporter contre Dennis Kucinich, à la rigueur, mais les chances que ce dernier reçoive l'investiture démocrate me semble assez mince.

Heureusement que le même jour (20 janvier), un sondage SurveyUSA donne un résultat quelque peu différent :

John McCAIN : 25%
Rudy GIULIANI : 20%
Mitt ROMNEY : 19%
Mike HUCKABEE : 14%
Fred THOMPSON : 7%

On verra bien quelle sera la nouvelle donne après l'abandon de Thompson. Les prochains sondages devraient dessiner la tendance en Floride.
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MessageSujet: Re: McCAIN Strikes Back   Mer 23 Jan - 2:38

Citation :
Bonne nouvelle !

Un sondage du 20 janvier, le dernier sondage de l'institut Rasmussen, place Mitt Romney en tête en Floride avec 25 points, contre 20 pour McCain et 19 pour Giuliani...

A suivre !...

Tu es devenu democrate Norman? lol!

Parce que si Romney s'impose, c'est une sacrée bonne affaire pour nous Wink

(le pire dans tout cela, c'est que je ne le souhaite meme pas...je n'ai jamais raffolé du vote strategique...bien sur, je ne cracherais pas sur le cadeau que le GOP nous ferait en designant Romney mais ces elections auraient un gout d'inachevé, j'ai toujours prefere un adversaire à la hauteur, je n'aime pas la politique du pire)
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MessageSujet: Re: McCAIN Strikes Back   Mer 23 Jan - 3:11

Daily Herald (IL): For President, Republicans: John McCain



By Editorial, Daily Herald
January 21, 2008


Our economy is on the brink of a collapse into recession. A war in Iraq drags on, seemingly without end. Our tax burden grows heavier every day.

We wonder who understands that it is our special interests -- the happiness of our families, unbridled hope in a future filled with opportunity -- that are more important than the special interests of lobbyists who persuade politicians to favor their clients in exchange for campaign cash.

Is there room for us, anymore, in a political system that is seemingly more connected and committed to the elite than to the heavy hearts of average Americans? Are we to be dismissed as naïve for believing elected leaders have a duty to improve the quality of our lives in ways that we can't do ourselves?

Where are the true leaders? Where are men and women of strong character and integrity? Where are the public servants with independence and positive convictions and political courage?

We are asking these questions repeatedly in this presidential race.

And the answer, on the Republican side, is U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, whom we warmly endorse.

Character?

Survey the state of the Republican campaigns these days, and many of them have sunk recently into embarrassing negativity, one mean-spirited attack after the other.

McCain's campaign stands apart with messages focused on positive ideas. The contrast is striking and significant, the mark not just of a campaign but of the man.

As everyone knows, McCain demonstrated incredible courage and fortitude during his long imprisonment in a Vietnam prisoner of war camp, where he was tortured and subjected to other horrors. This is not a man who is going to be intimidated. McCain also is a man who has shown the capacity to forgive, a capacity to dwell on the positive, not on the negative.

He scores high marks on the tests of character and integrity, even his critics would have to acknowledge.

In the Senate, he has taken on the special interests and the too-mighty impact of the donated dollar. He was a leader in fashioning a campaign finance reform law that, while far from perfect, is so true in intention -- removing the corruptive influence of money in political campaigns.

McCain has fought hard to put a lid on the pork barrel full of wasteful projects funded by tax dollars from millions of Americans but benefiting only a select few with clout.

His economic ideas are shrewd and forward-thinking proposals to turn America back toward prosperity and to strengthen our edge in the global marketplace.

We disagree with McCain's endorsement of the war in Iraq, but his early criticism of its execution -- that the Bush administration failed to send in enough troops to complete the mission -- has been proven accurate. A year ago, he showed courage in correctly asserting that a surge of troops would tone down the violence that stands in the way of any hope for peace.

Who better to be at the helm when the next terrorist attack comes than a man who is tough enough to stand up to our enemies as a former distinguished military leader and strong enough to have beaten the odds against his very survival as a prisoner of a war?

We don't agree with some of McCain's positions, such as his opposition to a waiting period on the purchase of guns and other reasonable gun control measures. And legitimate questions have been raised about whether his temperament and age may be barriers to his electability.

But McCain has spent most of his 71 years serving this country with courage in war and with distinction as an independent leader in the halls of Congress.

There is no one more ready for the job of president among the GOP candidates than John McCain.
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MessageSujet: Re: McCAIN Strikes Back   Mer 23 Jan - 15:52

Oui, et c'est bien dommage ...

Je préférerai voir Romney devenir président que McCain... car Mitt est un réel conservateur, McCain est trop modéré... mais je pense aussi que l'on a plus de chance de gagner avec un modéré comme McCain.

J'ai du mal à soutenir McCain pour plusieurs raisons :

- l'immigration
- l'économie
- et son âge... même si ce n'est pas le point le plus important... loin de là !

On va devoir faire avec on dirait ... Sad

PS : Non, Josh je ne suis pas devenu démocrate Laughing Mais comme je l'ai expliqué au dessus, McCain est trop modéré pour moi..

Mais vaut mieux McCain que Hillary ou Obama ! Laughing
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MessageSujet: Re: McCAIN Strikes Back   Mer 23 Jan - 17:07

J'ai bien compris ton point de vue Norman.Tu apprecie moins McCain pour les raisons qui font qu'il est le republicain qui me declenche le moins d'urticaire lol c'est assez logique finalement.

Mais je crois justement qu'aussi bien dans le camp republicain que dans le camp democrate, il est logique que les moderes aient le vent en poupe.Les USA sont aujourd'hui et assez durablement divisés en deux camps pratiquement de force egale avec au milieu de tout cela des independants ou centristes qui votent dans les swing states et font l'election.

C'est d'ailleurs de cette maniere que Clinton a reussi à gagner deux fois..en developpant une ligne modérée, bien aidé en cela par Dick Morris.
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MessageSujet: Re: McCAIN Strikes Back   Mer 23 Jan - 19:52


General Norman Schwarzkopf Endorses John McCain For President


ARLINGTON, VA -- Today, General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, U.S. Army (Ret.) issued the following statement endorsing John McCain for President of the United States:

"Senator John McCain has served our country with honor in war and in peace. He has demonstrated the type of courageous leadership our country sorely needs at this time. For that reason, he has my complete support."

John McCain thanked General Schwarzkopf for his support, stating, "General Norman Schwarzkopf's distinguished lifetime of service and uncommon devotion to our nation has earned him the respect and admiration of the American people. I am honored by his support."
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MessageSujet: Re: McCAIN Strikes Back   Jeu 24 Jan - 0:36

Norman Thompson a écrit:
Oui, et c'est bien dommage ...

Je préférerai voir Romney devenir président que McCain... car Mitt est un réel conservateur, McCain est trop modéré... mais je pense aussi que l'on a plus de chance de gagner avec un modéré comme McCain.

J'ai du mal à soutenir McCain pour plusieurs raisons :

- l'immigration
- l'économie
- et son âge... même si ce n'est pas le point le plus important... loin de là !

On va devoir faire avec on dirait ... Sad

PS : Non, Josh je ne suis pas devenu démocrate Laughing Mais comme je l'ai expliqué au dessus, McCain est trop modéré pour moi..

Mais vaut mieux McCain que Hillary ou Obama ! Laughing


Ben moi je suis resté indecis, j'avais une preference pour Thompson et McCain mais finalement c'est quand meme Giuliani que je prefere, mais je pense comme toi Norman je preferes McCain plutot qu'un Obama ou une Hillary, encore que si Hillary devrait passer ça serait moin catastrophique que si c'est Obama qui passait
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MessageSujet: Re: McCAIN Strikes Back   Jeu 24 Jan - 1:02

Moi je prefere Hillary puis Obama.Ensuite, McCain est "moins pire" que Giuliani qui est lui meme "moins pire" que Romney^^

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MessageSujet: Re: McCAIN Strikes Back   Jeu 24 Jan - 1:18

Pensacola News-Journal (FL): McCain Forges Path To Future



By Troy Moon, Pensacola News-Journal
January 23, 2008

Article Excerpt


Forget about preaching to the choir.

U.S. Sen. John McCain's speech to a Pensacola crowd packed with veterans and war heroes was more akin to preaching to the fleet.

"You and I know our veterans' health care is not what it should be," McCain said in front of some 500 supporters at the Pensacola Junior College gymnasium on Tuesday. "What happened at Walter Reed Hospital was a disgrace, when we had members of our military living in conditions that were not acceptable. We're going to have to do more."

McCain, 71, buoyed by his South Carolina primary victory on Saturday, was gathering support in anticipation of Florida primary next Tuesday.

The Arizona Republican and former Navy pilot, who spent five years in a North Vietnamese prison camp, had plenty of ammunition at his side.


U.S. Sen. John Warner, R-Va., who formerly was secretary of the Navy, appeared on stage with McCain. Nearby, in the reserved seating, were five Northwest Florida residents who also were prisoners of war -- retired Air Force Col. George "Bud" Day, retired Navy Cmdr. Robert Flynn, retired Navy Capt. Mike Cronin, retired Rear Adm. Bob Shumaker and retired Navy Capt. Allen Brady.


"It's his character -- that's what sets him apart," said Day, a Medal of Honor recipient and Fort Walton Beach attorney who shared a cell at the "Hanoi Hilton" with McCain during the Vietnam War. "He's the only candidate with combat experience, and he's absolutely consistent in his philosophy."

Recently, McCain has come under fire from some conservatives -- including well-known radio hosts Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity -- who charge that he's not a true conservative.

Day would have none of it.

"It does upset me," Day said. "He's been a consistent Republican. We talked about Republicanism back in 1967, and one of our mutual choices for president when we got out of prison was Ronald Reagan."

McCain also invoked Reagan during his 25-minute speech, specifically in his call to cut government spending.

"When John Warner and I were foot soldiers in the Reagan revolution, and we cut taxes. We also restrained spending," he said.

McCain said that one of the reasons Republicans faltered in the 2006 mid-term elections was because of increased spending.

"We let spending get completely out of control," he said. "We lost our way and went out on our own spending spree and saw the greatest increase in the size of government since (President Lyndon Johnson's) Great Society. ... It bred corruption in Washington."

McCain also called for lowering the corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent.

He also said the cause of radical Islamic terrorists is one reason he is in the race.

"If we did not face the transcendental challenge of Islamic fundamentalism, I might not be running for president," he said.
McCain said he is ready to be president and is experienced enough for the challenge.

"These are difficult and dangerous times in the world," McCain said. "I spent my life preparing to lead this nation. I have the knowledge and the background and the experience and judgment."

Flynn, 70, a Pensacola resident, spent five years as a prisoner of war in a different prison than McCain and underwent flight training with McCain in the late 1950s at Pensacola Naval Air Station.

"There's no one who has the training and background that John has," said Flynn, whose five years in a Chinese prison camp were almost all in solitary confinement. "With all the things that a president has to do, John can do them."
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MessageSujet: Re: McCAIN Strikes Back   Jeu 24 Jan - 3:14

Josh McGarry a écrit:
C'est d'ailleurs de cette maniere que Clinton a reussi à gagner deux fois..en developpant une ligne modérée, bien aidé en cela par Dick Morris.

Oui mais c'est aussi en faisant l'inverse de ça que Bush a gagné en 2002 et 2004.
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MessageSujet: Re: McCAIN Strikes Back   Jeu 24 Jan - 16:47

The Resurrection of John McCain


By JAMES CARNEY, TIME
Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2008


In war and in politics, John McCain has endured more than his share of near death experiences. He's been shot out of the sky and held captive, hung from ropes by his two broken arms and beaten senseless. This is his second run for President; he lost before, has nearly lost again and has been all but disowned by his party. So on the night of South Carolina's Republican primary, when the victory he needed to keep his campaign alive seemed as if it might be slipping away once again, McCain stood silent amid the chaos of his crowded hotel suite, his eyes fixed on the television screen. The normally loquacious Senator, who is rarely silent and hates to miss a punch line, was tuning the rest of the room out. Rumors that the primary was about to be called for McCain had fizzled, supplanted by whispers that Mike Huckabee had taken a slim lead in the ballot count. For a moment, it all seemed as though it were going to fall down again.

But the announcement came: "McCain wins South Carolina!" The room erupted in cheers; McCain's wife Cindy dissolved into tears; and the candidate's pale, scarred, 71-year-old face spread into a triumphant grin. "Whether it was because of what happened eight years ago in South Carolina or because his campaign was declared dead last July, I don't know," says Mark Salter, McCain's adviser, speechwriter and alter ego. "But he was as happy as I've ever seen him." The old warrior in McCain has learned to savor every battle won because he knows it could be the last.

McCain has traveled a long road to get where he is now, positioned as the ever-so-slight front runner for the Republican Party's presidential nomination. Last summer his once formidable campaign all but collapsed in debt and acrimony, with even his closest friends and advisers questioning whether he should bother marching on.

Now having won two important early contests (New Hampshire came first), McCain finds himself burdened with the front-runner label for the second time in a month, the third time in the past year and the fourth time since the 2000 primaries, when he challenged, briefly triumphed over and then was crushed in South Carolina by George W. Bush. Up to this point in McCain's career as a presidential candidate, becoming the man to beat has meant, inexorably, that he was about to be beaten.

Whether that history repeats itself may depend on Florida, where the GOP primary is a closed affair. That means no independents or crossover Democrats, the voters who secured McCain's victories in New Hampshire and South Carolina, are permitted to cast ballots. If McCain does manage to win in such a pure party contest, it could be enough to persuade Republicans, desperate for clarity in this wild election cycle, to rally around him. "Florida is turning out to be the decisive state for the Republican Party," says Scott Reed, who ran Bob Dole's 1996 campaign. "Whoever comes out on top is going to have a tremendous amount of momentum."

Maybe. But John McCain has been in presidential politics long enough to know that there is always the McCain exception to every rule. After he decisively beat former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney in neighboring New Hampshire, McCain's low-budget campaign expected a windfall of fresh donations to help propel it forward. But the haul was disappointing; donors still weren't ready to buy in to a candidate they view as too much of a risk. The towering obstacle between McCain and victory is not so much his rivals for the nomination but the suspicion long held by many Republicans, especially rock-ribbed conservatives, that the Senator and former war hero is too much the maverick on issues that matter deeply to them to be trusted to occupy the White House.

GOP Jitters

Conservative fears about McCain are often irrational: through a 25-year career in Congress, first in the House and then in the Senate, McCain has proved himself consistently pro-life on abortion and a hawk on defense, a scourge of wasteful government spending and a generally reliable vote in favor of tax cuts. Yet at last year's Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual gathering of party power brokers, McCain was booed.

Conservative élites are the ones most likely to break out into hives at the mention of McCain's name. Former Republican House majority leader Tom DeLay has declared that he would not vote for McCain in the general election, even if Hillary Clinton were the Democratic nominee. Railing against McCain and Huckabee, both of whom he views as anathema to conservatives, talk-radio kingpin Rush Limbaugh recently warned his 13.5 million listeners, "If either of these two guys gets the nomination, it's going to destroy the Republican Party." A few days later, Limbaugh was so outraged by the possibility that Republicans might support McCain that he bellowed, "If you Republicans don't mind McCain's positions, then what is it about Hillary's positions you dislike? They're the same!"

The truth is that McCain and Clinton remain far apart on the political spectrum. But it is also true that conservatives have a lengthy bill of complaint against McCain. In the past decade he has joined with Democrats on a series of crusades in Congress — with Russ Feingold on campaign-finance reform and Ted Kennedy on immigration reform — that a majority of Republicans have opposed. He voted against President Bush's tax cuts in 2001 and '03, each time citing the need for fiscal restraint. And during his 2000 campaign, he labeled Pat Robertson and the Rev. Jerry Falwell "agents of intolerance."

He has seemed to delight in doing battle with members of his own party and creed. "John's mistake is that he makes it personal," says a close friend in Washington. "When he's convinced he's doing the right thing, he has a hard time staying above the fray." All the while — and this may be what galls conservatives most — McCain has been hailed by liberals and lionized in the mainstream news media for being a rebel.

This maverick reputation, so prized for its general-election appeal, makes it difficult for McCain to pass the primary threshold. As was the case in 2000, McCain in 2008 has yet to win even a plurality of Republican votes in a presidential primary outside his home state of Arizona and the generally liberal Northeast.

This frustrates McCain, something I saw over dinner with him in Washington in May 2002, when McCain told me he was probably through with running for President. He had tried it two years before and almost pulled off a historic upset against Bush. But, he said, "you can't bottle lightning." Twice during dinner, patrons went over to shake McCain's hand and urge him to run again — against Bush in 2004 — as an independent or Democrat. The Senator was gracious and noncommittal. But after the second time, he gave me an exaggerated roll of his eyes and shook his head. "I'm a Republican, for chrissakes!"

The Right Stuff

But conservative and independent voters have the same question about McCain: What kind of Republican is he? In 2000, when the U.S. was at peace and the economy was luxuriating in the frothy end days of the first Internet boom, McCain's first campaign was about character and biography much more than issues. McCain was the authentic hero, the fighter pilot who had been shot down over Hanoi and spent more than five years as a prisoner of war. He was the reformer and the straight talker, the rare politician who — perhaps because of his experience as a POW — wasn't going to compromise his principles or hold his tongue to please his party. He was also, at his core, still the rowdy, runty, red-tempered plebe who finished near the bottom of his class at the Naval Academy despite an IQ of 133. McCain became a symbol in 2000 of courage and candor. Few took close looks at his policy positions. It was almost enough to get him the Republican nomination.

This time is different. Character and authenticity still matter, but McCain's reputation as an expert on defense and foreign affairs carries far greater weight in the post-9/11 world than it did eight years ago. On Iraq, McCain supported the invasion and still does. But he was an early critic of the way the Bush Administration was prosecuting the war and called for a change in strategy that would include a surge in U.S. troops to gain control of Baghdad. At the time, advocating an increase in U.S. troop levels in Iraq rather than a reduction was unpopular even within the GOP. But McCain stood by Bush when the policy was implemented.

For all his expertise, McCain tends to prefer blunt declarations about Iraq — "the surge is working." He says U.S. troops should remain in Iraq for 100 years if necessary. What he doesn't often discuss are the trade-offs required to sustain an unending commitment to a war that drains more than $9 billion from the U.S. Treasury every month. Instead, he is dismissive of those who doubt that he's right. "It's almost a ludicrous argument — 'How long are we going to stay?'" McCain insisted to me between campaign stops in Florida's panhandle. "It's like asking 'How long are we going to stay in Japan?' Well, we've been there since World War II."

The success of the troop surge has given McCain points for prescience and reaffirmed his political courage. Yet there's a downside too. As violence in Iraq has ebbed, economic anxiety has rocketed to the top of voters' concerns. This shift exposes one of McCain's weaknesses. He is a conviction politician, passionate about the issues that animate him, dismissive of and uninterested in those that don't. Iraq, foreign policy, the military and treatment of veterans — these topics get him excited. In the domestic realm, he's fire and energy when he rails against pork-barrel spending. But mention other issues — taxes, health care, education policy — and he briefly resorts to talking points before changing the subject. "Obviously, the economy is a very, very vital issue," he told me. "There's no doubt about that, O.K.? But the issue that's going to be with us after the economy recovers is the challenge of radical Islamic extremism, of which Iraq is the central battleground."

Can't Help Himself

What's both refreshing and vaguely masochistic about McCain is that even when he knows it's in his short-term political interest to dodge a question or adjust his message, he often just won't — or can't — do it. If McCain becomes the nominee and wins the White House, he will be 72 when he takes office, the oldest person ever to ascend to the presidency. He has suffered serious skin cancers over the years, not to mention brutal physical torture as a prisoner of war. His age and health, therefore, are of legitimate concern to voters. But McCain doesn't downplay his liabilities; he highlights them. "I'm older than dirt, with more scars than Frankenstein," he likes to joke.

McCain has what author and friend Michael Lewis once described as "a love of actual risk" that is "freakish" in a politician. Before the Michigan primary, he told voters in the economically ravaged state that lost auto-industry jobs "aren't coming back," a dose of undiluted straight talk that probably cemented his loss there to Romney. And no sooner had he arrived in Florida than he declared himself opposed to a costly national catastrophic-insurance bill that is widely backed by Sunshine State voters and supported by Florida's popular Republican governor, Charlie Crist, whose endorsement McCain covets.

Still, McCain's appeal tends to transcend his positions on the issues — when it doesn't contradict them entirely. He is the candidate most associated with supporting the President's war in Iraq, yet he is the hands-down choice so far of antiwar and anti-Bush voters in his party's primaries. He has accrued a far more conservative record in political office than Rudy Giuliani, Romney or, in many cases, Mike Huckabee, but he is, as he was in 2000, the favorite of independents and Democrats who choose to vote in GOP primaries.

That's the main reason that skeptical Republicans may fall in line behind McCain, even if they don't fall for him. This is shaping up to be a dismal election year for the GOP; regaining control of the House or Senate is beyond reach, and the incumbent Republican President has approval ratings that top out in the 30s. Home foreclosures are rampant, joblessness is up, and the markets are plunging. The Iraq war, while quieter, remains deeply unpopular. In other words, conditions could scarcely be worse for a Republican trying to win the White House. And yet every poll suggests that McCain — because of his appeal beyond his party — could actually win.

"McCain has his flaws," says Ken Duberstein, a former chief of staff to Ronald Reagan, "but everyone is starting to recognize that he's the most electable Republican out there." As if to dare Republican pooh-bahs to keep dragging their feet, McCain is holding a top-dollar fund raiser at a Washington steak house favored by lobbyists, on Jan. 28, the day before the Florida primary. The message: Get on board now, before McCain's nomination is a fait accompli.

If McCain does get the nod of his party, he has promised, he will wage a civil campaign. And he says he's confident that whoever wins the Democratic nomination will play by the same above-the-belt rules. Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards are his colleagues, after all, and McCain has worked with each of them in the Senate. He once even bonded with Clinton over late-night vodka shots in Estonia on a congressional trip. "I am confident we'd have a respectful debate with any of the three," McCain says. "Why not? I've worked with them all. They're all patriots."

That's the kind of talk that strikes terror in the hearts of many Republicans and makes them worry that McCain might lack the fire to attack his Democratic rival or, if he won the White House, might abandon the bedrock values of the GOP in his zeal to make deals with Democrats. If McCain loses Florida, and the nomination, it will be because Republicans can't overcome their doubts about him — and because McCain isn't willing to make it easy for them.
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