Friday, June 11, 2004


Republican Sen. John McCain has personally rejected Sen. John Kerry’s overtures to join the Democratic presidential ticket and forge a bipartisan alliance against President Bush.

Mr. Kerry had asked Mr. McCain as recently as late last month to consider becoming his running mate, but the Arizona senator said he is not interested, a Democratic official said. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because Mr. Kerry has insisted that his deliberations be kept private. A second official familiar with the conversations confirmed the account, and said that Mr. Kerry made it clear that Mr. McCain won’t change his mind.

Both officials said the Massachusetts senator stopped short of offering Mr. McCain the job, sparing himself an outright rejection that would make his eventual running mate look like a second choice.

“Senator McCain categorically states that he has not been offered the vice presidency by anyone,” said McCain Chief of Staff Mark Salter, who would not confirm the officials’ account.

Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter declined to comment.

The development may lay to rest speculation that Mr. Kerry and Mr. McCain would reach across Washington’s deep partisan divide and forge an unprecedented political partnership.

The notion has been rife with obstacles from the start — Mr. McCain is a strong-willed conservative and Mr. Kerry a liberal who would be loath to surrender presidential responsibilities that Mr. McCain might demand.

Mr. McCain’s cool relationship with Mr. Bush — he lost a bitter campaign against Mr. Bush for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination — fostered Democrats’ hopes. The senator, however, has repeatedly declared his allegiance to the Republican Party.

Mr. McCain has also said publicly he had no intention of serving as vice president, but he left the door open just enough to create a constant buzz. His advisers say the senator has ruled out serving under Mr. Kerry, despite his respect for the Democrat.

A maverick, Mr. McCain had jumped to Mr. Kerry’s defense when the Bush administration accused the Democrat of being weak on defense.

“This kind of rhetoric, I think, is not helpful,” he said in March, admonishing the White House.

Among those also mentioned as potential Kerry running mates are Sens. Bob Graham of Florida and Evan Bayh of Indiana; former Sen. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska; and Govs. Janet Napolitano of Arizona, Mark Warner of Virginia, Bill Richardson of New Mexico and Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania.

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