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Mr. McCain, most noted for changes he helped author in federal campaign finance regulations, made enemies of many in his party as a result.

“He’s been an engine of change in many areas, some of which I agree with, some of which I don’t,” Mr. Gramm said. “But there is no evidence Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama had been the instrument of any change of any significance anywhere.”

Moving back to criticism of his own party, Mr. Gramm also said Mr. Bush has been inept in getting from Congress the kind of legislation he wanted.

“President Reagan was master at that, and Bill Clinton was very good. I don’t see Bush White House ever exerted any significant influence” in molding the bills that came out of House-Senate conferences.

While many irate Republican donors accused their party’s lawmakers of extravagant spending when in the majority, Mr. Gramm cut those legislators something of a break, saying, “The Republican Congress would have been more responsible had the White House pushed back.”

He complimented Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, for “preventing Democrats from doing bad things they intended to do.” He also singled out for praise Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas and Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana for their leadership of the Republican minority in the House.

“The major reason I’m for McCain is that I know he will change the way we do business in Washington - in spending, stopping earmarks, vetoing spending bills and making the government smaller in relative terms to the economy,” he said.