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Time.com

The warnings in John McCain's farewell

March 9, 2000
Web posted at: 3:20 PM EST (2020 GMT)

(TIME.com) -- We've not heard the last of Sen. John McCain.

In an efficient statement delivered in the red rock desert near Sedona, Arizona, on Thursday, McCain "suspended" his bid for the presidency, but hinted heavily that he'll remain a thorn in his party's side until George W. Bush and the GOP leadership recast themselves at least a little in the senator's image.

"What is good for my country is good for my party," said McCain, indicating that the party needed to do more to woo the centrist and crossover voters who fueled McCain's insurgency. "Should my party abandon this principle, the American people will abandon us."

You can bet the GOP brass are listening. While Bush was able to attract bedrock Republicans during his primary campaign, he looked distinctly wobbly among the independents and centrists vital to winning a general election.

"McCain wants to make the GOP move in the direction of his issues, particularly campaign finance reform," says TIME correspondent Nancy Gibbs, who traveled with McCain on the campaign trail. "There are two issues he'll squabble with Republican leadership on. First is his bitterness toward Bush for the attack ads from South Carolina on. Second, he can make the issue that he drew new voters into the party, and that the party will have to incorporate his platform if it wants to keep those voters."

Translation: The GOP brass will have to embrace McCain's number one issue -- campaign finance reform -- if he's going to throw his weight behind Bush. "There are a bunch of little reform measures percolating in Congress right now," notes Gibbs. "At least some of those will need to pass if we're going to see the McCain and Bush camps unify."

Earlier in the day, ex-senator Bill Bradley delivered his farewell speech. Looking rested and speaking more comfortably than he has in months, Bradley said he'd do what he could to support the Democratic party in its bid to stay in the White House, although he had few kind words for Al Gore. But, highlighting the divergent styles of the two primary outsiders, Bradley said his next step was to go on vacation, while McCain vowed to return immediately to the Senate, where he'd continue to fight for the issues that were the pillars of his campaign.

Copyright © 2000 Time Inc.



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