Pawlenty, others not giving up on McCainby Tim Pugmire, Minnesota Public Radio
Arizona Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign is struggling, but many of his key supporters in Minnesota remain firmly committed to the candidate. Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who is co-chairman of the McCain campaign, admits things aren't going well. But he and other supporters still believe McCain can turn the campaign around.
St. Paul, Minn. — When Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., traveled to St. Paul last month for a campaign fund-raiser, he offered an upbeat assessment of his political and financial status. McCain stood proudly alongside Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who serves as the co-chairman of McCain's campaign.
"And I do repeat all over the country, not just here, that I view Gov. Pawlenty as the next generation of Republican and national leadership," McCain said. "And I'm honored to have his friendship and his support."
McCain was once considered a GOP frontrunner, but his campaign has languished. Financial reports out this week show McCain spent more than he raised during the second quarter of the year. He's made major staff shakeups and key strategists and aides have resigned.
Gov. Pawlenty hasn't jumped the McCain ship. During a news conference on another matter Tuesday, he briefly acknowledged the campaign's troubles.
"Obviously Sen. McCain's campaign has not gone as well as he planned or hoped, or I planned or hoped as well," Pawlenty said.
Pawlenty wouldn't elaborate. But during a recent radio interview Pawlenty said he still thinks McCain would be a good president and offered hope that he can restart the campaign.
McCain has lots of support in Minnesota. He's been the top money-raiser in the state among GOP presidential candidates. Barb Sykora, a former Republican state representative from Excelsior, says she thinks McCain would make a good president. Sykora says she's always liked where McCain stands on the issues.
"When it comes to almost all the candidates on either side of the aisle this year they seem like they're putting their finger to the wind," Sykora said. "And instead of having strong principles of their own and telling you their beliefs, they're trying to say what everybody wants to hear. So, I admire someone who stands up for what they believe and tells it like it is. And I think McCain is that kind of guy."
But McCain has taken unpopular positions on Iraq and immigration. Sykora says those issues, along with financial missteps, have hurt McCain.
State Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, who's listed among 54 members of McCain's Minnesota Leadership Team, is also concerned. He says it looks like McCain's wagon is falling off the side of the road. But Michel also thinks there's plenty of time for a recovery.
"We're so far out from November now," Michel said. "I think it's really hard to predict where things are going to go."
Michel says he's always respected John McCain's blunt and honest style. He says the Arizona senator has the most experience of any candidate on foreign affairs. Michel says McCain could make a great president, but he might need to do something dramatic to get people to reconsider his candidacy.
"And I know that one of the suggestion has been that he should leave the Senate, indeed become an outsider and start running full time, get out of Washington, DC, and spend time across the country," Michel said. "That kind of act might allow him to be kind of the comeback kid of 2008."
Michel says he doesn't believe McCain's campaign problems will have any negative effect on Gov. Pawlenty, who has been mentioned as a potential McCain running mate. If McCain does drop out of the race at some point, Michel says the remaining GOP presidential candidates would be eager to get Pawlenty on their team.
- Morning Edition, 07/18/2007, 6:24 a.m.