During a noon-hour appearance in Grinnell, Arizona Senator John McCain fielded questions about U.S. foreign policy and the potential Republican candidate for president promised to work with Democrats to spark a spirit of bipartisan cooperation in Washington. “These are very dangerous times in the world,” McCain told reporters just before his speech. “There’s many, many challenges that face our nation so people really want to know what you’re going to do for them much more than they want to know what you’re done, and that’s appropriate I think.”
Most of the questions McCain fielded from the crowd dealt with the situation in the Middle East, but toward the end of his give-and-take with the audience McCain focused on the way politics is practiced here at home. “I do not like the level of dialogue in America today in the political arena,” McCain says. “I do not agree with many of my Democratic friends in the Senate but I respect them and I treat them with respect.”
McCain co-authored a campaign finance reform law with a Wisconsin Democrat, for example, and has been collaborating with Democrats to try to reach a compromise on the immigration issue. “And if I have a message, I think it is that let’s have respectful debate and discussion so we can inform our citizenry and people can make informed choices,” McCain told the crowd. “Then after the (election) fight is over, it’s much easier for us to work together.”
It was that talk about bipartisan cooperation that got the attention of Diane Keenan of Grinnell. “I would like to see us all work together,” Keenan says.
McCain skipped Iowa’s Caucuses when he ran for president in 2000. McCain says the argument can be made that the 2008 race will be markedly different than the race eight years ago — perhaps because McCain will come to compete in Iowa. “In 2000, I was the outsider and, you know, brand-new and we could afford to pass up on Iowa,” McCain says. “…Certainly, conditions are not the same as they were in 2000, politically.”
McCain ranks as the party’s frontrunner in many presidential preference polls at this early stage in the process. McCain has hired a few Iowa Republican insiders to work for him here and has begun visiting the state to chat with Iowans and help local Republican candidates raise money. “Obviously Iowa is important, I mean, let’s have some ‘Straight Talk.’ The Iowa Caucuses are very important,” McCain says. However, he adds a caveat: “We have not decided whether to run or not, much less whether to come to Iowa or not.” McCain points to “lingering resentment” among Iowa Republicans because he did not campaign in Iowa in 2000. “So we would have a lot of work to do,” McCain says. “I think it’s nice to be the perceived front-runner, but I think the nomination will be up for grabs. I really do.”
Burt Day of Grinnell, a retired banker who used to serve on the Iowa Republican Party’s state central committee, doesn’t believe there are that many Republicans who’re still angry with McCain for bypassing Iowa eight years ago. “I think he’s got a lot to offer to the campaign and I think that he is respected by a lot of Iowans,” Day says.
McCain stopped at the Iowa State Fair this afternoon. This evening McCain will headline a fundraiser for a GOP candidate in Mason City.