John McCain visited the White House today to receive the endorsement of President Bush. It does not push McCain to the nomination--the Arizona Senator wrapped that up on his own, finally dispatching the pesky Mike Huckabee with wins in Ohio and Texas yesterday. Nor was it particularly surprising--the Republican president was certainly going to give the blessing to his apparent heir. The event was monumental nonetheless.
His appearance with Bush today, months after his campaign was declared dead and eight years after his bitter primary battle with the then-Texas Governor ended in stinging defeat, caps a roller coaster ride for John McCain. In 2000, it was clear the two men shared distaste for one another, culminating with Bush's primary win in South Carolina. Rumors of dirty politics and a smear campaign left McCain resentful. McCain only begrudgingly endorsed Bush after conceding that race and was a thorn in his side for much of his presidency. After flirting with the possibility of a unity ticket with Democrat John Kerry in 2004, John McCain again embraced Bush in hopes of winning favor with the Republican base for his second presidential bid.
His past inextricably tied to Bush, John McCain's prospects of victory in 2008 are certainly intertwined with the President as well. Though often a voice of dissent during Bush's first term, McCain has been one of his strongest advocates during the second term on issues ranging immigration reform to the surge policy. While McCain believes he can turn what once looked like a foreign policy burden into his greatest strength in the general election, there is no doubt that he will face an electorate eager to put the past eight years behind them.
Democrats certainly hope voters remember today's embrace, believing that Bush's unpopularity is their ticket to success in the fall. Though McCain readily accepted Bush's endorsement, it's unlikely he will play a major role on the campaign trail. More than likely, McCain will rely on Bush to raise money--a task that has thus far proved difficult for the nominee.
"They're not going to be voting for me," Bush said. "I've had my time in the Oval Office." While it is true that his name will not be on the ballot this year, the perception of his presidency will likely determine John McCain's fate come November.
Cross-posted at Political Realm.