McCain could bring Republicans together

Following his critical win in Florida, John McCain told The Associated Press he was the candidate who could unite the Republican Party. As the solidified front-runner in the race for the Republican nomination, McCain may be right, but he’s got a long way to go.

Enabling voters to move past the legacy left by President Bush is only a start to uniting the fractured GOP, divided over what to do about an economy near recession, a seemingly endless war and a failed immigration plan.

Military service and firsthand knowledge of the trials of war benefit McCain in his quest for GOP unity. Despite disagreeing with his stances on certain issues, some Republicans are enamored with McCain’s story and view him as experienced and capable of leading the country.

His long career in Congress prevents the talk of inexperience that has plagued Democratic candidates, but his time in the Senate has left McCain branded a maverick in the party. His defection from the GOP’s traditional stance toward a more moderate platform on several issues hasn’t played well among conservatives and could hurt his efforts to unify the party.

Following his failed bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000, McCain butted heads with President Bush on a number of issues, including tax cuts, global warming initiatives and gun control.

Additionally, his campaign reform act and Patients’ Bill of Rights were opposed by much of the party, according to a story in The Arizona Republic. During this period, Voteview, a Web site that tracks political leanings, ranked McCain the sixth most liberal Republican senator.

Then, in a turnabout, McCain adamantly supported Bush following the Sept. 11 attacks and during the lead-up to war. His support of Bush’s War on Terror did not, however, spread to all his votes. He twice voted against tax cuts, arguing that they weren’t a good idea in a time of war, according to the St. Petersburg Times. In 2006, however, McCain voted in favor of the tax cuts – a change in his stance that may have been a way for him to gain support from conservative Republicans, a group with which he had previously disagreed.

Although McCain has often dissented with conservatives, his recent rhetoric suggests it may not be an issue in the future. In December, McCain said that as president he would overhaul the nation’s tax codes, saving millions of middle-class families $60 billion, according to an article in The Washington Times. His fervent support of the war and his more fiscally conservative position will encourage more right-wing support, but it could cost him the moderates.

He is a complex politician, neither completely liberal nor conservative, but McCain has a demonstrated ability to adapt – both in times of national stress and when campaigning. His appeal to moderate Republicans lies mostly in his Senate votes prior to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Hard-right voters will gravitate toward his more conservative position in recent years.

Whether he will unite the moderate and conservative Republican factions is still in the air, but if McCain continues to deliver for both groups, his battle is nearly won.