Sunday, July 06, 2008

Presidential Politics - Tim Walberg and John McCain

As we get closer to Election Day, I'm hoping to spend some more time on other races that will be appearing on the ballot, and how they relate to the 7th District race. That is, I won't be arguing in favor of Barack Obama or against John McCain, but I will be writing about how the presidential race might have an impact on Tim Walberg's reelection bid. I gave a very general overview of state House races back in May for similar reasons. After all, this election isn't taking place in a vacuum.

When it comes to races that could have the biggest impact on the 7th District outcome, you have to list the presidential race at the top. Michigan is an important swing state, and both the McCain and Obama campaigns will be running massive voter turnout efforts. But today, I'd like to focus more on the role of Senator John McCain as a candidate and his relationship with Tim Walberg.

Let's start with what Senator McCain and Congressman Walberg have in common: they're Republicans. After that, it gets a little bit trickier. Recall this article from 2004 about Walberg and Joe Schwarz:
The 7th District is one of this year's most hotly contested Congressional primary races, where Congressman Nick Smith is retiring from his longtime seat. It is a secure Republican post, so whoever wins the August 3 primary will win the election. The six-way Republican race features three moderates with extensive legislative experience, a man without any sort of political experience, a man with a radically liberal record named Joe Schwarz, and a proven conservative statesman named Tim Walberg.


, a former Michigan legislator and chairman of John McCain's victorious Michigan primary race in 2000, is a fiscal liberal and a social liberal. He has the touted endorsement of the Republican Main Street Partnership, a wealthy coalition of so-called RINOs — Republicans in Name Only — who identify themselves in their mission statement as the "pragmatic center." Even the League of Conservation Voters, left-wing endorser of Clinton, Gore, and Kerry, has wildly thrown itself behind Schwarz's candidacy.

All in all, Joe Schwarz does not belong in the Republican Party. He is a Democrat at heart, and a socialist at mind. At a recent candidate debate, Schwarz demonstrated that he is thoroughly pro-abortion, warmly in favor of universal federal health care, and enthusiastic about increased federal spending for higher education.
(Emphasis added.)

Most of that article was Schwarz-bashing, but it was fairly representative of the types of attacks we saw throughout 2004 and 2006. You introduce Joe Schwarz as the chairman of the Michigan campaign of John McCain in 2000, and then you talk about how horribly liberal he is.

To Michigan conservatives and Republicans, the fact that Joe Schwarz ran McCain's Michigan campaign brings back unpleasant memories of the 2000 primary. Then-Governor John Engler promised to deliver Michigan to George W. Bush. Instead, the opposite happened, and McCain won. As the New York Times reported:
Mr. Engler said today's results said ''nothing whatsoever'' about Mr. McCain's ability to attract Democrats. Instead, he argued that Democrats, glimpsing an opportunity after Mr. McCain won in New Hampshire, worked to make mischief in the Michigan primary. Mr. Engler's aides said their evidence of Democratic efforts for Mr. McCain was anecdotal.


There was evidence in the polls of voters as they left the ballot booth that Mr. Engler's endorsement hurt Mr. Bush as much as it helped him. Of the 15 percent of voters who said that Mr. Engler's endorsement had influenced them a great deal, fully seven in ten voted for Mr. McCain. Of the 15 percent who said Mr. Engler's endorsement had influenced them ''somewhat,'' 65 percent voted for Mr. Bush and 33 percent for Mr. McCain.


Mr. Engler is extremely popular among Republicans, having served all of the 1990's as governor and most of the 1980's as president of the state senate.
(Emphasis added.)

To many Michigan conservatives, it seemed as if John McCain had conspired with Michigan Democrats to embarrass their governor and their preferred presidential candidate. CNN exit polls showed that 17 percent of voters that day were Democrats, and 82 percent supported McCain. He also beat then-Governor Bush 67 to 26 among independents (35 percent of voters) and lost to Bush 29 to 66 among actual Republicans.

So, the evidence was there that McCain only won because of Democratic and independent mischief-makers. And who could they logically conclude was the architect of that strategy? Why, Michigan campaign chairman Joe Schwarz, of course!

Regardless of the truth to that allegation, it served as a reason to dislike both Schwarz and McCain, two men who were old friends who used (at the time) a similar, moderate rhetoric. And don't forget that McCain endorsed Joe Schwarz in both 2004 and 2006, and to Walberg's supporters, Joe Schwarz was and still is the enemy.

I don't want to spend too much time on this point, but it's worth emphasizing. Tim Walberg and Joe Schwarz each represented a wing of the Republican Party-- two wings that, for whatever reason, can't stand each other. McCain is closely associated with Joe Schwarz, and many of the folks that cheer on Tim Walberg will either never support John McCain or will only do so out of hatred of Barack Obama.


Now, let's jump forward to 2008. Senator John McCain is the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party. Given the overall dissatisfaction with the Republican presidential field in this election's primaries, I wasn't surprised to see this in 2007:

RM: Real quick before you have to run, have you made an endorsement in the Presidential Primary? Will you make an endorsement?

CTW [Congressman Tim Walberg]: I have not. I probably will keep my powder dry until we have our nominee. The Republican side, there's much to respect with each of them. There are some who have issues that I would like to see changed but when I compare them to any on the Democrat side, people ought to believe me when I say this, it's not just because I'm a Republican, but their issues are so so different from the positions I take on almost anything I'm very encouraged that when we actually get a candidate on both sides the American people and my district, the 7th District people will make the right decision.

Walberg didn't endorse when it mattered, but

I vaguely remember seeing something about Walberg endorsing McCain, but I can't seem to find an article confirming that. If he did, it was only after McCain had secured the nomination, when he would have been expected to endorse.

But beyond that, can we find any other indication of what the political relationship between Tim Walberg and John McCain might be?

On this website and elsewhere, Tim Walberg's relationship with the Club for Growth has been well-documented. To make a long story short, Walberg received an enormous amount of money from the Club in 2006, and has voted pretty consistently in the interests of the Club. They specialize in purging the Republican Party of moderates and replacing them with, well, people like Tim Walberg.

Here's what John McCain says about the Club for Growth:

And here's what the Club for Growth says about John McCain:

Club for Growth President Pat Toomey said this week that his economically conservative group might sit out the 2008 presidential election and focus on congressional races.

The Club has had an antagonistic relationship over the years with Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the GOP candidate for president. With the general-election match-up now set, Toomey is confronted with this dilemma.
This stings, and it's not just because the Club for Growth spent millions of dollars during the 2004 election cycle, largely bashing Democrats. The Club is a major Republican group, and is expected to endorse as a matter of courtesy, even if they focus on congressional races anyway. Not endorsing is a significant story about divisions within the Republican Party.

And, of course, Walberg is a favorite of the Club.

But that's just one organization. Are there any other prominent supporters of Tim Walberg who are a little hesitant to support John McCain?

Well, yes.

In 2006, then-candidate Walberg was proud to receive the endorsement of James Dobson. What does Dobson say about John McCain?
I cannot, and will not, vote for Sen. John McCain, as a matter of conscience.
... And that's when he's being nice about it!

So, Walberg's supporters aren't willing to do much for McCain. Is there any evidence that McCain will be willing to do anything for Walberg?


John McCain has begun to raise eyebrows in Republican circles for his lack of fundraising help on behalf of his party’s House and Senate campaign committees.

The Arizona senator has yet to send a fundraising appeal for those committees nearly four months after becoming his party’s presumptive nominee, and he skipped out on a major fundraising dinner for them in recent weeks.
Obviously, this isn't a personal snub against Tim Walberg, but if John McCain isn't willing to do down-ticket fundraising, then it bodes badly for endangered Republicans like Tim Walberg. He would ordinarily be counting on the top of the ticket for support, but if the article from the Hill above is any indication, McCain will be focusing all of his attention on saving his own campaign, not someone like Tim Walberg-- especially someone whose supporters have had a history of hostility toward McCain.

In the end, Walberg and McCain will need each other, and if Walberg can cling to the McCain campaign, it might help him a lot. But Walberg's side very obviously hates McCain (or at least doesn't trust him). That doesn't bode well for a productive political relationship.

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Regarding donor contributions to Walberg: I am very disappointed to see Jeffrey Docking, AC president, contribute to Walberg's campaign. So far, it amounts to only $200 but just the fact that a leader in education could support someone who disdains public education is deeply disturbing to me.

I also can't believe Nick Smith is throwing his dough at Walberg. Isn't there bad blood there?

And lastly, what gives with Northwest Airlines in their Walberg donations?


which totals $2274. But why all the unusual amounts? Is this supposed to draw less attention?
I agree with McCain on the Club for Growth. It's a group of plutocrats who stand for nothing, hellbent on destroying the GOP from within.

What they did to Schwarz was unconsciencable and Walberg did nothing about it.

85% of his 2006 funds came from fatcats who couldn't locate Michigan on a map.
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