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CAMPAIGN 2000

McCain Weighs Starting PAC, With Possible Future White House Bid

March 16, 2000|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — John McCain's advisors are preparing to establish a political action committee that would allow the failed Republican presidential contender to campaign for other candidates this year and lay the groundwork for his own future, which could include another White House race.

McCain is expected to give the final go-ahead on the project when he returns to work next week, the advisors, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Wednesday.

They also said the senator from Arizona is in no hurry to endorse George W. Bush.

The two-term Texas governor, who now has clinched the GOP nomination, is eager to mend fences with McCain and forge an alliance that could help attract independents and Democrats to the GOP ticket in the fall. The Arizonan had enormous success with voters who normally don't vote in GOP primaries, but he couldn't overcome Bush's stranglehold over party regulars and social conservatives.

McCain is now mulling his next step as he prepares to return to the Senate on Monday. Advisors say the most likely option is the formation of a political action committee that would accept limited, regulated "hard money" donations, as opposed to the more freewheeling "soft money" contributions that McCain is trying to ban.

The committee, already dubbed "Straight Talk America," would pay for McCain's expenses, which aides expect to include:

* A speaking tour that would take him to college campuses and other sites to promote campaign finance reform.

* Campaign stops on behalf of Republican candidates in congressional and statewide races. McCain has received dozens of requests from candidates since he abandoned the presidential race last week, aides say.

* Political activities at the Republican National Convention this summer. Advisors are recommending that McCain fight any attempt by Bush to strip him of his delegates, and that he use his influence to shape the GOP platform. They realize that Bush's political base won't allow any extensive overhaul, but they are hoping an accommodation on McCain's signature campaign finance issue will be part of any reconciliation between the two rivals.

The unspoken purpose of the PAC-financed activities is to retain McCain's political viability in case Bush loses in 2000 and McCain, 63, is positioned as the early front-runner for 2004, advisors say.

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