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ELECTION 2008 | McCain Suggests He Might Choose Abortion-Rights Supporter for Running Mate

ELECTION 2008 | McCain Suggests He Might Choose Abortion-Rights Supporter for Running Mate
[Aug 14, 2008]

Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) on Wednesday in an interview with The Weekly Standard said he would not rule out choosing an abortion-rights supporter, such as former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge (R), as a vice presidential running mate, the AP/ reports.

In the interview, McCain, who opposes abortion rights, said, "I think that the pro-life position is one of the important aspects or fundamentals of the Republican Party," adding, "And I also feel that ... Americans want us to work together. You know, Tom Ridge is one of the great leaders and he happens to be pro-choice. And I don't think that that would necessarily rule Tom Ridge out." McCain also said that although opposition to abortion rights is a "fundamental tenet" of the Republican Party, "that does not mean we exclude people from our party who are pro-choice."

According to the AP/, McCain had previously indicated that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's (I) support for abortion rights would make it more difficult to choose him as a vice presidential running mate (AP/, 8/14). McCain suggested that Ridge would be more acceptable to social conservatives than Bloomberg, whom he said is "pro-gay rights, pro, you know, a number of other issues" (Hayes, The Weekly Standard, 8/13). McCain said that the issue of abortion amounts to a "disagreement" and that conservatives would accept an abortion-rights supporter such as Ridge as a vice presidential nominee.

However, some social conservative leaders said choosing an abortion-rights supporter as a running mate could hurt McCain politically with the Republican Party base, the Washington Times reports. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said, "I think McCain has to have a running mate that clearly connects with social conservatives in the party," adding, "That is where he is lacking. So if he picks a pro-choice running mate, I don't see how he can win this race." Perkins added that if McCain were to choose an abortion-rights supporter, people might not "stay home, but there is a core of voters whose level of enthusiasm influences people further from the core. So if McCain picks a pro-choice running mate, the strength of turnout on Election Day is not going to be there for him" (Dinan/Hallow, Washington Times, 8/14).

The New Republic Examines McCain's Abortion-Related Positions

The New Republic recently posted an article scheduled to be published in its Aug. 27 issue that examines McCain's position on abortion rights throughout his political career, which often has left the public "confused." According to The New Republic, "McCain's maverick reputation and his calculated political meanderings" on abortion rights "add up to one thing: The public thinks McCain just might be a moderate on abortion."

McCain in 1999 ahead of the 2000 presidential primaries suggested that he does not support overturning Roe v. Wade and that the Republican Party should revert back to its 1980 platform, which affirmed the party's support for a constitutional amendment banning abortion but also "recognize(d) differing views on this question among Americans in general -- and in our own [p]arty." This year, McCain has "swerved sharply to the right," saying that Roe should be overturned and that he will not seek to change the Republican platform on abortion.

Some voters believe that the "McCain of 2000 is the true McCain" and that his latest statements are a "pander to the GOP's right-wing base," but, "in truth, it was his 2000 position on abortion that was the outlier -- a short-lived attempt to court the center" after President Bush had "locked up the religious right's support," according to The New Republic. During McCain's tenure as a senator and member of the House, he has participated in 130 reproductive health-related votes, in which he voted with abortion-rights opponents 125 times, The New Republic reports. Some of McCain's votes were supported only by the "radical wing" of the party, including a vote by about 20 senators to remove family planning grants from a 1988 spending bill and a vote by 18 senators in 1988 against allowing Medicaid programs to provide funding for abortions in the case of rape and incest, according to The New Republic. In 1994, the year after abortion provider David Gunn was murdered outside a Florida clinic, McCain voted with 29 senators to oppose a measure that established penalties for violence and threats outside abortion clinics.

Nevertheless, his voting record does not "seem to be enough to convince the electorate that McCain's votes honestly represent his beliefs," The New Republic reports. This might be because of his "waffling" during the 2000 presidential campaign, as well as times when McCain has "outright defied the right wing" through his support of human embryonic stem cell research. However, according to The New Republic, "both data and anecdote show there is little latitude" in McCain's positions on abortion and contraception. The New Republic concludes that this time around, McCain is "taking no chances" with the right, adding that the "question is whether pro-choice voters are going to take a chance on McCain" (Blustain, The New Republic, 8/27).