Sen. John McCain is standing by his man in the GOP presidential race, but that isn’t keeping him from weighing in on other senators in the running.
“I’m one of those old-fashioned people that believe in loyalty, and I’ll stay with Lindsey Graham until he either succeeds or fails,” McCain told reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast. “That’s what my life has been all about.”
McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee and Senate Armed Services chairman from Arizona, has traveled to New Hampshire on multiple occasions to stump for his “amigo” from South Carolina. But, McCain also offered praise for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, as well as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
When it came to senators not named Graham, McCain took sides in the campaign trail debate over foreign policy divisions between Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.
“Marco Rubio I clearly view as [in] the next generation of leaders in the Republican Party, particularly on national security issues,” McCain said.
“I have a disagreement with Sen. Cruz, who voted against the defense — only Republican who voted against the defense authorization bill, and I thought that was wrong because I believe that our first obligation is to defend the country,” McCain said. “So, there obviously is a difference of opinion between me and Sen. Cruz, but I would like to say that I respect all of them in that they are willing to run and they’re willing to go through the appropriate process of seeking the nomination.”
McCain said he would support the GOP nominee, even if it turned out to be a candidate like real estate mogul Donald Trump, saying that there would be a Republican platform. But being on the ballot himself in 2016, he conceded concern about down-ballot effects of a Republican nominee who might appeal to a narrower slice of the electoral pie. He recalled the 1964 election, in which fellow Arizonan Barry Goldwater was trounced by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
“I think obviously, we all know from history that if you have a weak top of the ticket, that has a significant impact on the states, particularly in swing states,” McCain said. “I hate to refer to Barry Goldwater who I loved and admired, but the fact is when Barry Goldwater lost, we lost big time.”
“New Hampshire is sort of the classic swing state,” McCain said, saying the presidential cycle would put his colleague Kelly Ayotte in “greater jeopardy.”
“In a presidential year, because we have all those jerks from Massachusetts coming over and voting, it usually … it goes Democrat,” McCain said of the Granite State.
“By the way, I’m confident that Kelly will win, don’t get me wrong,” McCain added. “But, I think it’s a much, it’s a bigger lift.”
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