Questioning the straight talk

Things looked like they couldn’t be worse for the presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), but the story in our newspaper today has made the gloomy last months now seem almost sunny. Bob Cusack reported that former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) held several discussions with McCain in 2001 about what Daschle concluded was the legitimate possibility of McCain leaving the GOP and possibly retaining his seniority in a Democratic majority. The story includes denials from the McCain camp about him ever seriously considering leaving his party.

This revelation arrives when McCain has lost his early momentum, lost his frontrunner status, money is thin and his candidacy faces possible challenges from two friends — Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) — and a definite challenge from another friend, Rudy Giuliani. Add to that his status as Poster Man for the Iraq war.

The ferocious hatred some conservatives feel for McCain will be undoubtedly fueled by news that he spoke to Democrats about possibly abandoning his own party. Be it rebelliousness or a hunger for revenge, there could be no reason or excuse that could ever assuage loyal GOP base voters. The period during which McCain reportedly mulled the idea of changing parties preceded the historic switch made by former Sen. Jim Jeffords (D-Vt.). Once he decided against the idea, McCain went on to vigorously court the conservative establishment and the Bush administration, and to make amends with those he had criticized in 2000 during his insurgent campaign. Instead of beating them, he decided to join them. But as they look back on those conversations now, how many of those Republicans will question the straight talk?