- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 6, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Once considered an unbranded calf, the term “maverick” has come to define a politician who takes an independent stand. It has been argued that, despite the “R” behind his name, John McCain can’t be branded - or painted in a box. His record indicates that he has bucked the party brand to blaze an independent path - including legislation on tax cuts, embryonic stem-cell research and immigration.

Agree with him or not, his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention confirmed the return of “Maverick McCain,” not only because he is willing to stand on principle when it isn’t popular (such as Iraq), but based on his desire to reach across party lines to solve present-day problems, which he made known throughout the speech. “The constant partisan rancor that stops us from solving these problems isn’t a cause, it’s a symptom. … Again and again, I have worked with members of both parties to fix problems that need to be fixed. That’s how I will govern as president,” Mr. McCain said.

About this time last year, when Time magazine criticized the retooling of the stand-alone senator, saying his advisers “took away the power of the McCain brand,” Mr. McCain was declared politically dead. His badly mismanaged campaign virtually wiped out the campaign coffers. A bitter primary left him with a deflated, uninspired and bitter base. And even his trademark independent streak has been called into question by the Obama campaign’s rhetoric reminding voters that “John McCain has voted with President Bush 95 percent of the time.”

But Mr. McCain managed to successfully distance himself from the unpopular president, and he’s done so without alienating the conservative base. In fact, he has now re-energized conservatives in a way no one would have predicted was possible. He has also rebuilt his war chest and made history in the process. A record 34 million viewers tuned in for the speech from his “risky” vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, to be capped off by Mr. McCain’s crescendo “call to service.”

Moreover, Mr. McCain took a moment to express great humility and graciousness at the historic nomination of his opponent - a gesture his opponent has not reciprocated with the Republican Party’s nomination of its first female vice-presidential candidate. Mr. McCain said of Barack Obama: “[T]here are big differences between us, but you have my respect and admiration. Despite our differences, much more unites us than divides us.” Putting “country over party” is the kind of leadership expected of a president and a stark contrast to that exhibited by Democrats in the recent energy deadlock in Congress.

With an estimated 21 percent of “swing” voters still up for grabs - and left to consider how each ticket will address urgent issues - McCain-Palin has just under two months to transfer the convention’s enthusiasm into policy commitments that those Sam’s Club Republicans, Blue Dog Democrats, hockey moms and fence straddlers can relate to.

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