Speaking of McCain: Spoiling for a Fight

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You could tell things were different the instant he came to the back of the bus. Always a bit of a wisecracker, McCain was positively giddy, bouncing in his seat and miming a boxing stance at the mere mention of Mitt Romney. Asked about the spin coming out of Romney’s campaign, that people voted for Huckabee “on their emotions,” rather than rationally, McCain threw up his hands in mock shock: “Damn those people, how DARE those people vote on their emotions!” Then he went on to list other candidates who had moved people to vote on their emotions, including Kennedy and Reagan.

He turned serious when approached with Romney’s latest tactic, debuted today, which is to paint McCain as a creature of Washington: “There’s no way that Senator McCain is going to be able to come to New Hampshire and say that he’s the candidate that represents change — that he’ll change Washington. He is Washington.”

McCain eagerly pushed back: he said he’s successful pushed for change in strategy in Iraq, in earmark reform, and campaign finance reform. An hour later, his staff emailed around quotes supporting McCain’s case, including the words of a prominent Republican who claimed that McCain “has always stood for reform and change. And he’s always fought the good battle, no matter what the odds.”

The fact that those words came from Mitt Romney, well, it’s not like they came from Romney’s lips today. They were said by Romney in 2002, a Romney who — as we all know — was a totally different Romney than the one running for president today. I think maybe he had to sign legislation having to do with doing research on McCain’s stem cells.

Romney spokesman Kevin Madden clarified Romney’s evolution on the McCain issue. It turns out that the Governor’s positions are not contradictory at all… McCain does represent change, but “Washington has not changed in the right direction during Senator McCain’s long career there.”

A McCain senior staffer emailed a comment on Romney’s tactic with a virtual eyeroll, noting that “Romney is change” is an addition to litany of other things Romney is said to represent: Mitt is competent. Mitt is change. Mitt is a reactionary. Mitt is Reagan. Mitt is sunny optimist. Mitt is fighting mad. Mitt is decent family man. Concluded the staffer, “They’ve lost focus and discipline except ‘McCain is bad.’ ‘Desperate and flailing,’ I believe you call it.”