The first real twist of the convention. And one that makes you wonder whether Democrats have any other surprise endorsements from Republicans, or Republican allies, in store. After all, a theme about Biden’s relationship with McCain logically should have aired last night, as part of the “Republicans for Biden” package featuring Kasich, Susan Molinari, Meg Whitman, and Christine Todd Whitman.
Maybe the Dems figured a quasi-endorsement from the McCain family was of sufficient notoriety that it shouldn’t be smothered in the reporting on Kasich et al. It needed to be set apart to stand out.
Or maybe they’re planning to do something like this every night of the convention. It seems unlikely that all of the people who’ve served under Trump and then complained adamantly about him later would refuse an invitation from Democrats to officially endorse Biden. What about Rex Tillerson? Military men like John Kelly and James Mattis might normally prefer to remain neutral, but they’re clearly not neutral about Trump and make no bones about it. Mattis in particular has described the president as a threat to American democracy. If he’s willing to say this in The Atlantic…
Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society. This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens; to past generations that bled to defend our promise; and to our children.
…logically he’d be willing to say it in a Zoom video for Biden, no?
We’ll see. As for Cindy McCain, it’s not news that she prefers Biden to Trump, especially after the various digs Trump’s taken at John McCain since his death. But it is news that she’d do something endorsement-like on Biden’s behalf. Why? Because the McCain family retains political influence in Arizona, of course, and rumors abound that one of her children may seek office there before long. “One or two of them might end up running,” she’s acknowledged before. This isn’t going to help them in a Republican primary:
Cindy McCain is going to bat for Joe Biden, lending her voice to a video set to air during Tuesday night’s Democratic National Convention programming focused on Biden’s close friendship with her late husband, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona…
McCain is not expected to offer an explicit endorsement, but her involvement in the video is her biggest public show of support yet for Biden’s candidacy. McCain was the 2008 Republican presidential nominee against Democrat Barack Obama, who won the election with Biden as his vice presidential running mate…
[W]hile Meghan suggested in April she’d be voting for Biden, Cindy has pointedly stayed out of the presidential race. In April of last year, amid rumors that the McCains would wade into the election in support of Biden, Cindy McCain tweeted that Biden is “a wonderful man and a dear friend of the McCain family.”
“However,” she added at the time, “I have no intention of getting involved in presidential politics.”
“My husband and Vice President Biden enjoyed a 30+ year friendship dating back to before their years serving together in the Senate, so I was honored to accept the invitation from the Biden campaign to participate in a video celebrating their relationship,” McCain tweeted this afternoon after the news broke. It’s weird that she didn’t just pull the trigger and officially endorse him. It’s not like pro-Trump Republicans in Arizona are going to rev up to defeat her kids in a primary and then think, “Oh, wait, she never technically endorsed Biden so I guess there’s no problem.”
Cindy McCain isn’t naive about the political consequences of doing this, so why’d she do it? Maybe it’s as simple as her feeling she owed it to Joe and/or to John. But I can also imagine her keeping an eye on the fortunes of George P. Bush in Texas and thinking there’s less risk to her kids’ political futures in doing this than everyone thinks. After all, Bush is the son of Jeb Bush, an old-guard Republican who attacked Trump repeatedly during the primaries in 2016. Even so, he won his primary for land commissioner comfortably in 2018 with more than 58 percent of the vote and then beat his Democratic opponent by 10 in the general election. How’d he do it? By kissing Trump’s ass enough publicly that he managed to separate his own fledgling political brand sufficiently from Jeb’s to make him acceptable to Texas Republicans. If they’re willing to overlook Trump’s relentless nastiness towards their dad, up to and including disparaging his service in Vietnam, the McCain kids could follow the same path.
And if they’re unwilling to follow that path and genuflect before Trump’s greatness then it doesn’t much matter what Cindy McCain does or doesn’t do. They’ll be punished by primary voters for their insubordination.
Or will they? It must be weighing on McCain’s mind that her state isn’t as red as it used to be; chances are very high, in fact, that Arizona will be represented by two Democrats in the Senate next year. It’s not the worst idea in a state that’s trending blue to build a little goodwill among Democrats. (The McCains already enjoy some by dint of John’s ObamaCare vote, of course.) And if Trump goes on to lose this fall — especially if he loses badly — then being quietly anti-Trump won’t be quite the dealbreaker in Republican primaries going forward as it is now. It’ll still be a liability, but any McCain kid who runs for office can always say, “It was my mom who did Biden a favor at his convention, not me. I’ve had my issues with Trump but in the end I think his policy program was a much better vision for America than the Democrats’ is.” Look at it this way: After losing two Senate seats to Team Blue, Republican primary voters might *want* to nominate a McCain again. It might be their best chance of taking Kyrsten Sinema out in 2024.
Or … maybe I have it all wrong and the McCain kids are planning to run as Democrats? Hmmmm.
Exit question: Will Trump tweet something nasty about Cindy McCain or the McCain family when he finds out about this, even though it’s apt to do him more harm than good? We all know the answer.