McCain embraces Reagan, backs away from Bush

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainJuan Williams: Obama's dire warnings about right-wing media Democrats' squabbling vindicates Biden non-campaign McSally, staff asked to break up maskless photo op inside Capitol MORE (R-Ariz.), who is leading in most GOP polls in New Hampshire, embraced Ronald Reagan’s legacy Sunday and distanced himself from President Bush.

In explaining his votes against Bush’s 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, he argued that Reagan not only cut taxes but also sought to reduce government spending. McCain, who trounced Bush in the 2000 New Hampshire primary, suggested the president is partly to blame for the nation’s fiscal troubles.

McCain, who appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press, also defended a recent ad attacking former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) for downplaying the need for the next president to have foreign policy experience.

Pressed about previous presidents and their lack of foreign policy experience, McCain disputed the notion that Reagan had no foreign experience. Asked about President Bush’s foreign policy experience before he was sworn in, McCain noted that Bush was elected before the 9-11 terrorist attacks. The Arizona senator also renewed his criticism of how the Bush administration has handled the Iraq war and of former President Clinton and Bush for not capturing or killing Osama bin Laden.

During Saturday’s debate, Romney took exception with McCain for his “personal” criticisms. On Sunday, McCain said he respected Romney, claiming he is not personally going after the former governor -- who is locked in a close race with the senator in New Hampshire polls. McCain reiterated his claim that the former governor has changed his position on many issues.

Romney, who appeared on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, responded to the debate by saying that he liked being attacked from all sides because it shows that the other candidates are worried about him.

McCain predicted he would win the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday.  Asked by moderator Tim Russert if he would entertain the possibility of an independent bid, McCain vowed to support the GOP presidential nominee and noted that he has previously resisted efforts to run as an independent.

Before their Iowa triumphs, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) appeared on “Meet the Press.” Russert said Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) declined an invitation to appear on his show Sunday.