McCain: Christie Is Still a 'Viable Candidate' for President

Image: McCain: Christie Is Still a 'Viable Candidate' for President

Monday, 03 Mar 2014 03:38 PM

By Drew MacKenzie

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Arizona Sen. John McCain says New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is still "a viable candidate" for the Republican presidential nomination despite being mired in the Bridge-gate scandal.

But McCain, who was the GOP hopeful in the 2008 campaign for the White House, told Time magazine that Christie must first put the uproar over the George Washington Bridge traffic nightmare in his rear-view mirror.

"I think he's still a very viable candidate," McCain said. "I do believe that, obviously, he has to get this issue behind him. I think he's handled it quite well. There's always the question in these situations on whether there's new information, and that's the caution that I have.

"But I think the smartest thing he could've done is have a press conference that lasted until he answered every possible question. I thought that was really a wise tactic on his part."

Although Christie had been seen as a front-runner for the GOP nomination, his chances have hit the skids in the past two months after revelations that his aides had closed access lanes onto the bridge as political revenge for the Fort Lee, N.J., mayor's refusing to endorse Christie’s gubernatorial re-election campaign.

Christie held a two-hour news conference to announce he had fired an aide connected to the shutdown and to deny he had any previous knowledge of the closings.

During the long interview with Time, McCain was also asked about the possibility of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul or former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush getting the GOP presidential nod.

Quickly adding the name of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz to that list, McCain said, "I think we may have the most diversified group of candidates in everybody’s memory.

"Right now, there is no frontrunner. Sen. Cruz has carved out a significant part of the tea party and that group. Rand Paul I would put in the kind of libertarian sort of conservative group. I think he and Cruz will be competing for some of the same support, the tea party, because there’s overlaps.

"I think that Jeb Bush is an extremely viable candidate. I think his pause is the obvious one: his last name is Bush. But at the same time, he may be competing with someone named Clinton, so it’s kind of a balancing act there. Two dynasties clashing.

"I think that Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is a very bright and very articulate young senator, and has a great deal of attractiveness to him."

With a White House run in mind, Politico reports, Rubio has been attempting to rebuild his image with conservative Republicans after his controversial support for the immigration bill last year.

But McCain said he does not think Rubio will be hurt by his immigration stance, which he’s no longer pushing. "I don’t think so, because I don’t think that Marco’s necessarily competing for that section of the Republican Party."

"Over 70 percent of the Republicans support a path to citizenship. So, he may not get the support of the very active opponents of immigration, but I think he is very attractive to many."

McCain also discussed the prospects of other GOP contenders for the White House.

"I think that [South Dakota Sen.] John Thune would be a viable candidate," he said, also mentioning Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

"Scott Walker, he’s been through the fire," said McCain, possibly referring to Walker’s battle to strip collective bargaining power from public employee unions in Wisconsin. The unions protested at the state capital and forced a recall election, which Walker won.

"Rick Perry, I think he’s going to run again, and I think [the Texas governor] is going to have money behind him. So, I certainly wouldn’t count him out, and I’m sure he’s learned a lot."

Perry’s short-lived campaign for the presidency in 2012 ended after a series of missteps that resulted in a fifth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses.

"I think that one thing that is clear is that there’s no clear favorite, and that’s probably healthy for the party," McCain told Time while warning potential candidates that "campaigns matter."

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