- The Washington Times - Friday, March 10, 2000

Arizona Sen. John McCain renewed unity concerns in the GOP Thursday when he offered only "best wishes" to Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who has all but wrapped up the Republican presidential nomination.
Party leaders wondered how long it will take Mr. McCain to help reunite the party, what concessions he would ask of Mr. Bush and whether the Texas governor might look weak in attempting to accommodate his rival.
"I don't think it would be proper for Governor Bush to be making concessions to anybody," Sen. Phil Gramm, Texas Republican, told The Washington Times.
Mr. McCain was national chairman of Mr. Gramm's 1988 presidential-nomination campaign, and although Mr. Gramm considers Mr. McCain a friend, the Texas senator supported Mr. Bush from the start.
Iowa Sen. Charles E. Grassley agreed that Mr. Bush had brought together the party and conservatives behind him by looking tough in counterattacking Mr. McCain during the heated nomination campaign.
But, Mr. Grassley said, the one danger to Mr. Bush's looking weak now would be if he gave in to Mr. McCain on campaign-finance reform. "On other issues, their differences are more a matter of degree than of philosophy," he said.
Rather than quitting the nomination contest and endorsing Mr. Bush, Mr. McCain Thursday suspended his campaign and simply acknowledged that Mr. Bush " •ay very well become the next president of the United States."
"That is an honor accorded very few, and it is such a great responsibility that he deserves the best wishes of every American. He certainly has mine," Mr. McCain said.
"No wonder John McCain is so popular in the Senate," Mississippi Republican Party Chairman Mike Retzer said with a sarcastic laugh upon hearing Mr. McCain's words to Mr. Bush.
Mr. McCain has rubbed many Senate colleagues, including fellow Republican senators, the wrong way for years. His campaign against his own party in recent months only exacerbated those ill feelings. Yet Republicans want to win in November and keep the McCain primary voters on board.
Most leading Republicans Thursday privately expressed relief that Mr. McCain had reiterated his intention to remain a Republican and not bolt for a third-party presidential run. Publicly, they sought to be as complimentary as possible.
"No living person has served or suffered more for his country than John McCain," said Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson.
He called Mr. McCain a "leader in the party," said the Arizonan and Mr. Bush are both "reformers" and looked forward to a strong relationship between them and the rest of the party.
Mr. Gramm, however, drew a line on accommodation, saying "it would be wise for Bush to reach out to McCain and bring the best of the [McCain reform platform]. That is where the proper bounds would end."
Like Mr. Gramm, Mr. Grassley said Mr. McCain will get a warm welcome back in the Senate, "albeit only four senators back his campaign and he angered a lot more" by saying they were corrupted by special interests.
"Every Republican senator, whether he likes John McCain or not, knows he is the key to bringing the party together," Mr. Grassley said. "It would be counterproductive to make John McCain not feel really as important as his campaign showed he is."
Still, other leaders cautioned that conciliation efforts should be kept in bounds.
Said Mr. Retzer: "Bush needs to look at McCain's campaign manifesto and see what parts honestly fit with his own philosophy."
Some leaders were adamant on the subject. "I don't believe there should be concessions to the candidate who lost," said Barbara Alby, a Republican National Committee member from California. "We shouldn't concentrate so much on McCain as on his voters, and that would be my advice to Gov. Bush."
Conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly said Mr. McCain has won enough state party delegations in the seven primaries he has won to be able to force his issues to the floor of this summer's Republican nominating convention. "That could mean some trouble," she said.

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