Former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said that several years ago John McCain came close to leaving the Republican Party and caucusing with Senate Democrats.
During Daschle’s appearance Sunday on MSNBC’s “Meet the Press,” host Tim Russert noted that Daschle said in February, “It’s true that we were once close to bringing John McCain into the Democratic caucus. There are many who can verify that.” Russert asked, “John McCain almost became a Democrat?”
Daschle answered: “Never a Democrat, but an independent. He was so angry at the way he was treated and the problems he had with the Bush administration in 2001, Tim, that he came to us and said, ‘Look, I’m seriously considering becoming an independent and caucusing with you. Let’s talk about it.’ And we did.”
“Aligning himself with the Democrats in the Senate?” Russert asked.
“Exactly,” Daschle replied.
McCain vied with George Bush for the GOP presidential nomination in 2000 and accused Bush supporters of running a smear campaign against him. After Bush won the election and took office, McCain broke with the administration on a number of issues.
Russert asked Daschle, who is an adviser to the Barack Obama campaign, “Then how can you run against [McCain] as a Bush third term?”
Daschle responded: “Because in the course of that period from 2001 to 2008 . . . he’s become a very ideologic advocate for the Bush policies on Iraq, on the economy, on tax policy, on domestic policy. Across the board he is espousing the Bush policies. He’s changed a lot since 2001.”
“Why?” Russert queried.
“Well, I think because he felt he needed to do that to win the nomination,” was Daschle’s response.
Daschle’s assertions came several weeks after liberal blogger Arianna Huffington claimed that she attended a dinner party after the 2000 election where she heard McCain and his wife say they did not vote for Bush.
"I voted for Bush in 2000 and 2004," McCain told Fox News when questioned about the claim. "And not only that, far more important than a vote, I campaigned everywhere in America for him."
But the Democrats insist that McCain was not happy with the Bush administration, at least during the president’s first term.
Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic nominee for president in 2004, when questioned about McCain’s interest in joining the Democratic caucus said, "It doesn't surprise me completely because his people similarly approached me to engage in a discussion about his potentially being on the ticket as vice president. So his people were active — let's put it that way."
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