Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

McCain: Great Character but What Can He Do

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

McCain: Great Character but What Can He Do

Article excerpt

If the 2000 campaign were being held on a back lot in Hollywood, John McCain would almost certainly capture the GOP nomination. It's hard to imagine a more movie-perfect candidate for this race. How about a principled war-hero who is anti-establishment trying to comfort a weary population? Or a senator who is tired of Washington and wants to clean it up? All you need is Harrison Ford and some special effects and you've got a blockbuster.

But despite the sometimes frightening similarities, Washington is not Hollywood. And when Mr. McCain strides to the podium in Nashua, N.H., as he's expected to today and formally announces his candidacy, he's looking at a long difficult road.

On the surface McCain would seem the perfect change of pace for an electorate suffering from Clinton fatigue. If, as the voters say, they are hungry for a man of character, how could they pass on the senator from Arizona? McCain has stood firm in calling for campaign finance reform even as his party's leaders have tried to silence him. And he has been careful not to jump on the Republican let's- blow-the-surplus-on-tax-cuts bandwagon.

Through all this he has also captured the imagination of the press corps, which loves a candidate who speaks frankly, and often, to it.

Still, McCain's candidacy has more than a few hurdles in the way of a happy ending. First, his stands haven't won him a lot of friends in traditional Republican interest groups. The congressional leadership doesn't like him. The National Rifle Association doesn't like him. The Christian Right doesn't like him. And on top of that he faces the same difficulties all Republicans face in going up against the money raised by the First Bank of George W.

Beyond all that, however, is an even bigger issue for McCain. In the next few months he has to transform his campaign from a cult of character to an idea

producer.

Up to now, McCain has been running on the idea that Americans want an honest man of principle whom they can trust in the White House. For the last few months, as the dwarfs of the Republican presidential field have chased George W., McCain kept a cautious distance, enhancing his renegade image by not deigning to enter "beauty contests" like the Iowa Straw Poll. …

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