January 14th, 2008
12:45 PM ET
7 years ago

McCain: Romney can expect a 'forceful' response

McCain and Romney are running neck-and-neck in recent Michigan polls.

McCain and Romney are running neck-and-neck in recent Michigan polls.

(CNN) - John McCain – who had vowed to avoid negative campaigning – defended his decision to send out a campaign mailer in South Carolina attacking Republican rival Mitt Romney, describing the move as a defensive measure.

“We had to respond to negative campaigning,” the Arizona senator told reporters after a campaign event in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

“Now, we won’t go tit-for-tat, but we will respond, and we will make clear that this kind of negative campaigning didn’t work for him in Iowa when he attacked Governor Huckabee, didn’t work in New Hampshire when his campaign attacked me, and I don’t think it’s going to work in Michigan where he’s attacking me, and it won’t work in South Carolina.

“So, we will respond in a very forceful fashion because we know unfortunately that these charges have to be responded to, but we’re not going to go tit-for-tat with him.”

He added, “…There’s a stack of mailers this high that attack me, literally this high that have flooded South Carolina for the last six months.”

He also dismissed the idea that the mailer was not a response to a Romney charge, but a fresh attack of his own against the former Massachusetts governor.

“It’s not negative campaigning,” McCain said. “I think it’s what his record is, particularly his positions on many issues… It’s a tough business. I said it in the debate the other night. It’s a tough business for all the candidates that are running. When millions of dollars are spent attacking us, we are going to have to respond.”

South Carolina's Republican presidential primary will be held this Saturday.

–CNN’s Dana Bash and Rebecca Sinderbrand


Filed under: John McCain • Michigan • Mitt Romney • South Carolina
soundoff (93 Responses)
  1. Big Doug

    John McCain did his duty 40 years ago in Vietnam. He was unlucky enough to get shot down and captured by the enemy. I respect him for surviving the hell that he and many other brave soldiers went through. All them should have our sincere gratitude.

    That being said, we are now choosing our next President.

    Mr. John “ITS NOT AMNESTY, THEY HAVE TO PAY A SMALL FINE” McCain could never win the Presidency. McCain would even lose his home state of Arizona where they just repudiated him by enacting the harshest anti-illegal alien law in the nation.

    In 1987 Ronald Reagan granted amnesty to what they estimated to be 1 million illegal aliens. It was in reality 3 times that number. Now John McCain and the Democrats estimate that 12 million illegals are here now. Logically they are again greatly underestimating the real number. Under the McCain plan, all of the illegals would be able to bring their entire families to the U.S. All of them would immediately be eligible for government assistance such as food stamps and healthcare. Last year in the Senate, John McCain lead a few misguided Republicans and almost all the Democrats in a failed attempt to pass the amnesty bill. It just barely failed. The Democratic Presidential candidates all support the amnesty bill. That bill will pass in 2009 unless we stop them.

    The media is doing its best to help the Democrats via John McCain. The Democrats would love to see a John McCain nomination

    A vote for McCain or Huckabee is a vote for the Democrats and economic failure.

    Mitt is the answer.

    January 14, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  2. ben

    John Mccain is a hypocrite!!

    I love how he acts like he is better then that to do negative attack ads then he does it.... How many times has he said in interviews that they are going to run a positive campaign??? What a liar.

    Mitt has my Vote!!!

    January 14, 2008 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  3. Jimmy

    I dont need a negative ad to vote against Mccain, his record is negative enough, look at it America

    January 14, 2008 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  4. Tom Davie

    I dont know if I would provote or defend Iran.

    I would honestly consider that attacking any country will kill other people. Then I would consider the further cost to our reputation, and our loss in national treasure.

    McCain is a good man, but lets not go to ANOTHER war or shouting match .

    January 14, 2008 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  5. bensonally

    Talk about disengenousness! This is Not "straight talk" from John McCain! How is this not an attack add, something he has repeatedly said he would, could not, does not do, and then has done...!

    January 14, 2008 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  6. Wayne, Greenville TX

    John McCain's "forceful" response:

    "That's not fair ... cut it out...."

    January 14, 2008 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  7. Gene, Houston, TX

    “It’s not negative campaigning,” McCain said. “I think it’s what his record is, particularly his positions on many issues… It’s a tough business. I said it in the debate the other night. It’s a tough business for all the candidates that are running. When millions of dollars are spent attacking us, we are going to have to respond.”

    Funny how when Mitt points out other candidates' positions on issues, it is called an attack. But when others do it to him, it's not an attack. Quite a convenient double standard being applied here, and I don't think the people of Michigan or elsewhere will be fooled by it.

    Mitt's still the most intelligent, capable and proven leader of the bunch on either side of the aisle.

    January 14, 2008 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  8. Jen, Cedar Falls, IA

    It's not negative campaining John?
    Mitt is presenting facts on your record.
    Be careful where you're headed with these ads as there is a clear difference between attack ads & record revealing ads.

    So, Mike must be your new best friend in politics now as you two are TOGETHER sabatoging Mitt's campaign.

    How nice of you two little boys to become such convenient friends.

    At 71, I would expect you to be much more mature than that. But I'm not surprised. With Huckabee, it's no surprise at all, he's been dirty since day 1.

    January 14, 2008 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  9. Seattle, WA

    Nice one McCain – you can dish it out but can’t take it. What's with the flip-flop here? Oh, that’s right, you coined that phrase about Romney didn’t you? Always a good thing to change your mind when convenient for you – just a bunch of political silliness on your part.

    January 14, 2008 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  10. Dave, Chicago

    hmmm, sounds like a McCain flip flop to me.

    January 14, 2008 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  11. bensonally

    Additionally, hard not to see some desperation in this "pre-emptive strike". Perhaps McCain's positions, personality and choices are starting to come home to roost. If it's not desperation, then it's a cynical move, as if voters don't have minds of their own and eyes to see.... Yes, we like to see what we want to see, but this is too much. I predict this "pre-emptive strike" will backfire on John McCain but it will not have been a strategic blunder that does him in but John McCain himself.

    January 14, 2008 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  12. tim

    Sen. McCain is right. It is a tough business. So my advice to Sen. McCain is take it like a man and stop complaining about it. If you can't take the scrutiny, then get out of the race. And by the way, I'm sick of Huckabee and McCain complaining about attacks on their records. News flash guys, that's what politics is all about. If you think you can get a shew in to the White House, you're dead wrong.

    January 14, 2008 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  13. Val Davydov

    Poor old McCain is getting soft. Sorry McCain – you are going down! Getting emotional is not going to help you win the nomination either.

    January 14, 2008 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  14. Big Doug

    John McCain did his duty 40 years ago in Vietnam. He was unlucky enough to get shot down and captured by the enemy. I respect him for surviving the hell that he and many other brave soldiers went through. All of them should have our sincere gratitude.

    That being said, we are now choosing our next President.

    Mr. John “ITS NOT AMNESTY, THEY HAVE TO PAY A SMALL FINE” McCain could never win the Presidency. McCain would even lose his home state of Arizona where they just repudiated him by enacting the harshest anti-illegal alien law in the nation.

    In 1987 Ronald Reagan granted amnesty to what they estimated to be 1 million illegal aliens. It was in reality 3 times that number. Now John McCain and the Democrats estimate that 12 million illegals are here now. Logically they are again greatly underestimating the real number. Under the McCain plan, all of the illegals would be able to bring their entire families to the U.S. All of them would immediately be eligible for government assistance such as food stamps and healthcare. Last year in the Senate, John McCain lead a few misguided Republicans and almost all the Democrats in a failed attempt to pass the amnesty bill. It just barely failed. The Democratic Presidential candidates all support the amnesty bill. That bill will pass in 2009 unless we stop them.

    The media is doing its best to help the Democrats via John McCain. The Democrats would love to see a John McCain nomination.

    A vote for McCain or Huckabee is a vote for the Democrats and economic failure.

    Mitt is the answer.

    January 14, 2008 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  15. whatsitToyou

    Alright I vote that everyone just flings mud at eachother till they feel better! This is getting ridiculous, the joys of starting campaining and primaries so early! So now Huckabee and McCain have flip flopped on not having negative adds..Atleast Mitt was honest from the start haha!

    January 14, 2008 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  16. Nathan, Rochester, MN

    So when Romney does it, it's a malicious, mean-spirited attack ad. When you do it, it's a "defensive measure"? Honestly...

    January 14, 2008 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  17. Rob

    This guy is so full of it. He and Huck have been working for the past month to paint Romney as a terrible negative person. But when they actually spend money for real advertising, they are using the same exact "negative" mailers and ads.

    Lets Hire somebody who is at least honest about the situation, and that is Romney. He said from the beginning that its just part of the business of campaigning, and that they are meant to get people to examine the others record. They are not outright lies, but they do have a very specific focus on facts that candidates dont normally admit to.

    McCain with his "greater than thou" attitude should be honest and say "We finally got some money, so we had to spend it on something effective", because that is really the truth.

    January 14, 2008 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  18. Jay, Altoona

    Not when you are responding to hate. John has a responsibility to set the record, from the master of flip-flops- Govenor Romney

    January 14, 2008 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  19. Christie

    McCain shows his true colors once again. The man knows how to hate and attack. Romney needs to finish him off and quit giving him false respect. McCain needs to go take a nap....

    January 14, 2008 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  20. MATT

    Now that's a politician! He can even spin his negative campaign and blame the other guy for it. That's slick.

    January 14, 2008 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  21. Lev Klinemann, CA

    Mad man McCain talking about being forceful. Somebody take this nut job and fetch him his slippers, or put him in his bed because it is nap time.

    McCain is old, has a temper, and wants to keep our troops in Iraq for a 100 years,

    TWO OF THOSE THINGS SHOULD BE AN AUTOMATIC DISCULAIFICATION FOR THE PRESIDENT.

    Romney is just a freak who will NEVER win the Republican nomination.

    January 14, 2008 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  22. Daniel

    Not that McCain isn't a nice guy and staight shooter, but people need to realize that the media and others running are painting people for what they are not...IE Romney. This holier than thou crap is just not right. Just like Huck when he wasn't going to negatively campaign...and promply turns over his TV to the media?! Look at Romney's ads, he is not attacking character by the way, see for yourself and look on youtube....this is sad what direction we are headed here.

    January 14, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  23. bensonally

    Exactly, I remember some very snide remarks about "change candidate" from John McCain. Some change is good. Wrong kind of change, John...! : )

    January 14, 2008 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  24. Vote08

    Suuuurrrreeee, McCain! I believe you. You are the biggest flip-flopper of the bunch. Please don't undermine our intelligence by assuming we can't see through your dirty tactics and see your real intent. You and Huckabee have been the dirtiest polititions in your attacks, the biggest difference is that you both pretend you aren't, even though you clearly are.

    You say that you are only pointing to the issues and not being negative and yet, you call what Mitt Romney has done as negative campaigning, when in reality Mitt has only ran adds that have pointed out your flawed records. Sorry you don't like someone pointing out your mistakes but someone has to because you surely won't.

    I think McCain, that it is time for you to check out some nice retirement homes...politics is no longer your game. You've had your chance and failed miserably.

    January 14, 2008 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  25. Jason Thompson, Richmond VA

    So you're idea of a "fair" response is that he hits you with a snowball and you shoot a Howitzer at him. Is that your idea of fair? I don't doubt John that you don't want to get into a "tit for tat" as you call it because much of what he said was right on the mark. Must have hit close to the mark based on your mean-spirited response. You going to curse at him till you're red in the face like you do in the Senate? Bottom line, if you don't want your record opened up for discussion by other Republicans McCain, stop acting like a Democrat! It's as simple as that.

    Unbelievable. Romney actually said some nice things about you in his contrast ads, and you sucker-punch him with this character assassination attempt. Is this the kind of Presidency that you will run? If so, America doesn't need you – go back to the Senate (of course that's going to be up for debate as soon as your shamnesty proposals sink into the Arizona voter.)

    Straight talk express my eye.

    January 14, 2008 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
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