Bradley, McCain stump here -- Democratic candidate campaigns as proud liberal -- Republican calls for all to join him
Seattle Times Olympia bureau
BREMERTON - In a three-city tour of Washington, Republican presidential candidate John McCain tried to find a balance between attracting Republican regulars with talk of his deep conservatism and inviting novice voters, alienated minorities and disgruntled reformers into what he calls the "McCain majority."
"I'm a proud conservative Republican. That's my core philosophy," the U.S. senator from Arizona told a rally on the Bremerton boardwalk last night. "But I want everyone to be part of this new awakening of America, and I want independents, Democrats, Libertarians and vegetarians, whoever you are."
The day after important wins in Michigan and Arizona, McCain continued to run as an underdog to Republican Texas Gov. George W. Bush.
But McCain's new momentum hasn't been lost on Bush. In an interview this morning, he indicated he was surprised by the Michigan primary, which he acknowledged "elongated the contest." As a result, he is focusing harder than he had planned on Tuesday's primaries, particularly in Washington state and Virginia. He will visit this state Sunday and Monday before returning to the East coast.
Bush is still better financed and has stronger support from party leaders, but McCain has won more primaries and secured more delegates.
McCain hits three cities
Yesterday, McCain spoke at Gonzaga University in Spokane, at the Rotary Club in downtown Seattle and rode a tour boat to Bremerton surrounded by other former Vietnam prisoners of war. Also aboard was Teddy Roosevelt's granddaughter, 82-year-old Vashon Island resident Edith Williams, who gave McCain a book about her grandfather.
"You have brought my grandfather back to life," Williams said. "You're a crusader. You're a reformer."
A two-pronged strategy
In the coming days, there will be new attempts to reach out to disgruntled Republicans and novice voters as McCain tries for a strong showing here in the Feb. 29 primary. It would help him in the all-important Super Tuesday round of primaries March 7.
McCain strategist Brian Kennedy said the campaign will try a new tack here with radio commercials running on rock and hip-hop radio stations to attract younger voters. Spanish-language commercials will also air in California to bring Hispanics to a party they think doesn't like them, McCain says.
The trick for McCain is how to keep his image as a maverick while attracting enough of the party faithful. In several of the March 7 primaries, declared Republicans are needed to win delegates.
And he'll have to do that under heavy criticism from Bush, whose campaign complained that McCain's victory in Michigan was thin, because many McCain votes came from Democrats and independents.
"The problem with the McCain majority is it doesn't include any Republicans," said Bush spokeswoman Mindy Tucker. "While we certainly agree he has brought new faces in, his new faces are gone today and they are back in the Democratic Party doing their thing there."
In Washington's primary Tuesday, voters must choose a Democratic, Republican or unaffiliated ballot. Only Republican ballots will count toward delegates.
To help clarify the complicated process, the campaign has prepared radio commercials featuring former Gov. Dan Evans explaining how to do the proper paperwork to help McCain win delegates.
`That feisty little man'
Before McCain arrived in Spokane yesterday morning to begin his Washington swing, an overflow crowd of more than 600 waiting for him at Gonzaga University also got detailed instructions on how to vote Tuesday.
People arrived two hours before the start of the town-hall meeting to get a seat in the student center or in a tent set up outside.
Shelby Hepton, Mary Bruess and Karen Bellefeuille took time off from their community-college jobs to see McCain. They said they were attracted by his candor and his personal story.
They have also been taken by his personality to the point where the middle-aged friends were downright giddy.
"I just love that feisty little man," Hepton said.
"I don't feel I could go up to the other candidates and talk to them," Bruess said.
"But you could with him," added Bellefeuille.
Retired store owner Jackie Scottolini said the rally was the first political event she's attended since a 1964 rally for Barry Goldwater.
Now she spends her days making telephone calls to drum up support for McCain.
He answers some questions
After McCain came into the room to the rock 'n' roll classic, "Johnny B. Goode," Scottolini beamed as the candidate talked about rebuilding trust with people cynical about politics.
In response to questions, he told the crowd he supports the death penalty but is glad DNA technology helps keep innocent people from being executed, that he opposes bilingual education and supports diversion programs to keep first-time drug offenders out of jail.
Also, McCain said the Clinton administration has gone too far in protecting wilderness lands because decisions were made without enough "input from people who live, work and recreate on the lands."
He told reporters he's willing to consider breaching Northwest dams to help restore endangered salmon. But he said he wouldn't support that move without more scientific research.
McCain has been critical of some federal programs to help restore salmon runs. His campaign publicizes a list of pork-barrel projects and included an $80 million appropriation for Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery - a program supported by fellow Republican Sen. Slade Gorton of Washington. But McCain said yesterday that doesn't mean he opposes spending money to help salmon.
"There may have been a spotted-owl program in Arizona that needed the money just as bad. We'll never know because the money was stuck in (the budget) in an unprincipled and an unfair way," he said.
Three-hour drive to see him
The Bremerton rally was the biggest event of the day for McCain. He came off the tour boat in the beam of a spotlight as the theme from "Rocky" played to hundreds on the boardwalk.
Some in the crowd had waited three hours to see him. Chris Kerrigan and a friend drove for that long just to get here from Portland.
They are perfect examples of voters McCain needs in coming weeks.
This is the first election Kerrigan, 20 years old and a community-college student, has been old enough to vote in.
"At first, I just liked his position on campaign finance reform," Kerrigan said. He has become a full-fledged McCain believer.
He recently changed his party registration to Republican in his home state of California so he can help McCain win delegates.
David Postman: 360-943-9882.
Here is a list of elections and caucuses through March 21.
Virginia (GOP primary)
North Dakota (GOP convention/caucus)
March 7 (Super Tuesday)p
American Samoa (Dem. caucus/convention)
California (Dem. and GOP primaries)
Connecticut (Dem. and GOP primaries)
Georgia (Dem. and GOP primaries)
Hawaii (Dem. caucuses)
Idaho (Dem. caucuses)
Maine (Dem. and GOP primary)
Massachusetts (Dem. and GOP primaries)
Maryland (Dem. and GOP primaries)
Missouri (Dem. and GOP primaries)
New York (Dem. and GOP primaries)
North Dakota (Dem. caucuses)
Ohio (Dem. and GOP primaries)
Rhode Island (Dem. and GOP primaries)
Vermont (Dem. and GOP primaries)
Washington (Dem. and GOP caucuses)
Colorado (Dem. and GOP primaries)
Utah (Dem. and GOP primaries)
Wyoming (GOP convention)
Arizona (Dem. primary)
Michigan (Dem. primary)
Minnesota (Dem. caucuses)
Nevada (Dem. caucuses)
Florida (Dem. and GOP primaries)
Louisiana (Dem. and GOP primaries)
Mississippi (Dem. and GOP primaries)
Oklahoma (Dem. and GOP primaries)
Tennessee (Dem. and GOP primaries)
Texas (Dem. primary/caucus; GOP primary)
Illinois (Dem. and GOP primaries)
Wyoming (Dem. caucuses)
Puerto Rico (Dem. primary)
Delaware (Dem. caucus/convention)
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