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Opinion Column
For the week of May 24 through May 30, 2000

George W. Bush should be wary of the ‘McCain Jinx’

Commentary by PAT MURPHY

Should George W. Bush begin to seriously reconsider whether he really wants John McCain’s endorsement for president?

The "McCain Jinx" has struck again, and what might’ve been coincidence now seems to be a full-blown political kiss-of-death, just like the bad luck that seems to haunt sports figures after they’ve appeared on Sports Illustrated’s magazine’s cover.

The heart of the "McCain Jinx" is this: everyone whom McCain endorses in politics seems either to lose at the polls, drop out before election day or meet an uglier political fate.

The latest "victim" of the "McCain Jinx" is New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, whom McCain endorsed in the Senate race against First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. McCain even offered to campaign for him.

Now, Giuliani has dropped out only weeks after the McCain endorsement.

There’s a string of others whose political careers crashed after McCain’s blessing:

  • In 1996, he endorsed Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas for the Republican presidential nomination, even strong-arming the Arizona Legislature to create a Republican-only primary to benefit Gramm over other candidates. But Gramm dropped out and never even made it through the Arizona primary, which was won by Steve Forbes.

  • After Gramm dropped out, McCain jumped the fence and endorsed Bob Dole—who also went down in defeat in the general election.

  • In Arizona politics, McCain embraced and provided high-visibility support for state Sen. John Kaites, a former TV weatherman, to be state attorney general. But Kaites was crushed in the Republican primary, despite or because of McCain’s blessing.

  • McCain recruited a Republican unknown, Carol Crockett, to run against Maricopa County (Phoenix) Schools Supt. Sandra Dowling, who’d displeased McCain by supporting a non-McCain Republican for governor. McCain’s handpicked candidate was smothered at the polls.

  • McCain also enlisted Phoenix Vice Mayor Thelda Williams to run against Mayor Skip Rimsza, because Rimsza had displeased McCain by supporting Dole, rather than Gramm, in the early days of the ’96 primaries. She, too, was thrashed on election day.

  • And the McCain political protégé who suffered perhaps the worst fate was J. Fife Symington III, Arizona’s blue-blood Republican governor who was forced to resign after being convicted on federal criminal fraud charges. Symington’s conviction was reversed over questions of a juror; the Justice Department is deciding whether to re-file charges.

The logical question that reasonable people might now ask is whether the "McCain Jinx" could affect George W. Bush. After all, McCain not only endorsed the Texas governor for president, but endorsed him six times in a spurt of repetitive playfulness during a joint news conference in Pennsylvania.

If New York Congressman Rick Lazio is wise, he’ll go up against Hillary Clinton without McCain’s endorsement.


Pat Murphy is the retired publisher of the Arizona Republic and a former radio commentator.


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