NEW YORK — Sen. John McCain, who has pushed for more civility in this year's presidential race, is warning that the biting attack on Sen. John F. Kerry by a fellow Democrat at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night might harm President Bush's efforts to woo swing voters.
McCain (R-Ariz.) said the keynote address by Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.) could prove as controversial as a speech by Pat Buchanan at the 1992 GOP convention in Houston.
"I think it backfires," McCain said of Miller's rhetorical assault on Kerry. He added that it "makes Buchanan's speech ... look milquetoast."
McCain made his comments to reporters at a party he held after the convention's Wednesday session.
Buchanan's speech -- in which he declared a "cultural war" was underway in America -- was thought by many Republicans to have hurt the reelection bid of Bush's father, then-President George H.W. Bush. The elder Bush lost the November vote to Democrat Bill Clinton.
Miller's keynote address was laced with harsh criticism of Kerry's legislative record on military issues. Marshall Wittmann, McCain's spokesman, said the senator favored a less divisive approach to political debate.
"This is not his style," Wittmann said. "He would prefer to see Democrats not as our enemies, but rather as Americans who have good intentions but policy differences" with Republicans.
McCain has become an active campaigner for the younger Bush's reelection and will continue that effort in coming days.
But he also has denounced recent ads by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth criticizing Kerry's military service in Vietnam and his later protests against that war. McCain has urged Bush to condemn the ads.