McCain denies party switch White House run
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JUNE 4, 2001

Hoping to dispel widespread rumors in the wake of the GOP losing the Senate to the Democrats, Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Saturday denied he has plans to leave the Republican party and launch an independent Presidential challenge to George W. Bush in 2004.

"I have not instructed nor encouraged any of my advisers to begin planning for a Presidential run in 2004. I have not discussed running for President with anyone," said McCain in a statement.

"As I have said repeatedly, I have no intention of running for President, nor do I have any intention of or cause to leave the Republican Party. I hope this will put an end to further speculation on this subject," he added.

McCain's denial comes as rumors have him ditching the GOP ranks like colleague Jim Jeffords of Vermont. Citing unnamed sources said close to the Senator known for being a supporter of tribal sovereignty, The Washington Post on Saturday reported that McCain has been considering an independent run against Bush, to whom he lost in the GOP primaries.

Coupled with a visit to his Arizona ranch by incoming Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), also seen as a supporter to tribes but who urged against setting Leonard Peltier free, the rumors of a switch -- which wouldn't occur for some time and if he loses to his party on issues like campaign finance reform, the Post reported -- have fueled the political fires. Daschle courted Jeffords with a chairmanship under a Democrat-controlled Senate.

McCain's staff pointed out that the visit had little to do with party affiliation talks and more to do with their long friendship. The invitation to Daschle and his wife was made "months ago," said the office. "No one should read anything more into this," added the office.

The protestations haven't quelled questions about McCain's status. Political pundits yesterday found many revealing features about his latest rumbling.

"And you notice in that statement he said, 'I have no cause to leave the Republican Party at this time.' That serves as a warning: 'Don't give me cause,'" said Cokie Roberts on ABC's This Week.

Yet as he faces differences with his party over defense spending, patients' rights, gun control, and campaign finance reform, the White House said McCain has given the President his personal assurances he won't split. Spokesperson Gordon Johndroe said Bush telephoned McCain at his ranch on Saturday and received the pledge.

But the future might not be filled with such easily sailing. After the Jeffords exit, McCain did give his party a warning about losing potential members.

"It is well past time for the Republican Party to grow up," said McCain. "If you're going to threaten retaliation, revenge and punishment to people because they don't vote exactly how you want them to, you're going to pay a price."

One of McCain's most recent splits with the GOP was to recommend former Senator Slade Gorton of Washington for a spot on the federal bench. While all Senators -- including Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado, the Senate's only Native American -- signed a letter to Bush on the issue, McCain declined because his disagreed with Gorton on his views on tribal sovereignty, said his spokesperson.

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Shift in Senate means changes for Indian Country (5/25)
Jeffords jumps ship (5/25)
Campbell: No bed of roses for Jeffords (5/24)
Domenici ready to be minority (5/24)
Miller denies switch to GOP (5/24)
Campbell says Bush agenda will suffer (5/24)
Deja Ben Nighthorse Campbell (5/23)