WASHINGTON -- Deaniacs, make way for the McCainiacs.
Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who trounced George W. Bush in the 2000 Republican primary in New Hampshire, will return to the Granite State on the eve of the 2004 primary to headline a get-out-the-vote rally for the president.
With all the attention focused on a hot Democratic contest, GOP officials in New Hampshire are yearning for some political excitement to remind voters that there's a Republican primary on Tuesday, too, albeit with just one choice.
So they have arranged, through the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign, to bring big-name surrogates to the state: former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani will be in Manchester tomorrow, New York Governor George Pataki will be in Hillsborough County on Sunday, and McCain will pump up a crowd at a yet-unnamed high school in Nashua Monday from 5 to 7 p.m.
Governor Mitt Romney is scheduled to attend a lunch Tuesday in Rockingham County, N.H., with women who are supporting Bush, said Scott Stanzel, a Bush-Cheney campaign spokesman.
McCain spokesman Marshall Wittman said the senator would most certainly be campaigning for Bush, even though they were bitter rivals in 2000. McCain has criticized the president for ballooning budget deficits, and he is on quite friendly terms with Senators John F. Kerry, Joseph I. Lieberman, and John Edwards, all candidates in the Democratic primary.
"Senator McCain has been very supportive of the president in his war against terror, and they have a cordial relationship," Whitman said. "He also has very fond memories of New Hampshire, and he looks forward to being back."
Four years ago, McCain roared his "Straight Talk Express" through New Hampshire, holding 114 town meetings and wooing independent voters with his candor, centrist message, and compelling biography. A Vietnam prisoner of war, McCain organized military veterans around his campaign, and he advised Kerry, a Vietnam war hero, to do the same.
McCain upset the better-financed Bush 49 percent to 30 percent in the New Hampshire primary, then lost in South Carolina and was out of the race shortly thereafter.
Ken Mehlman, Bush's campaign manager, noted that McCain already had hosted an event for the president in Arizona and serves as the campaign chairman there. "John McCain is a supporter of the president," Mehlman said, adding that his message to New Hampshire will be that Bush is a strong leader.
Thomas D. Rath, a Republican activist in New Hampshire, said party leaders are itching to get the president's bandwagon rolling in New Hampshire and to answer what he estimated was $5 million to $7 million in advertising aired by the Democratic candidates.
"We're trying not to let the environment up here get polluted or corrupted," said Rath, a Concord lawyer who would like to see New Hampshire's four electoral votes go to Bush in 2004. "McCain will be an effective antidote, and we're thrilled to have him come."