January 14th, 2008
12:45 PM ET
14 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. Donna

    Mitt, honest? Now that's a good one. He is so slimy! And he's a member of a cult religion that allows polygamy and encourages raping children!

    January 14, 2008 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  2. ProfMike

    I find it fascinating how anyone, such as Governor Romney, complains that a response is a personal attack. All candidates get upset when their records are called into question but Gov. Romney seems to make a habit of claiming that any questions about his record in Massachusetts or the relevance of his campign slogans is a "personal" attack. If you cannot defend your record on the basis of its impact on the social or political or economic landscape, get out of the campaign.
    I cannot understand when asking a question about a candidate's legislative or executive record is a personal attack. I want truth in campaigning. Anyone who hides behind the claim of "personal attack" lacks the courage of his convictions and will not get my vote.

    January 14, 2008 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  3. Craig

    I hope McCain has his lucky penny with him from now til Saturday. His latest efforts have proven to be those of desparation. Being that he is an ultra supersticious person it is probably safe to say that he knows he has to win in SC to have a chance of securing the party's nomination.

    It is apparent that McCain and Huckabee Just can't keep consistent on domestic issues. McCain and Huckabee have recently changed their policies regarding the hot issue of illegal imigration. They have also run personal attack ads while their opponent runs civil comparative ads. It is interesting to observe a person while they are underfire. How will this person serve their country? Will they be cool and rational under fire or become desperate and explosive.

    I see groveling and desperation here. South Carolina should be an entertaining race.

    January 14, 2008 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  4. Brenda M

    If I'm not mistaken, the mailer that McCain sent was blasting Romney for not voting SOON ENOUGH for the Bush tax cuts. McCain voted AGAINST the Bush tax cuts! This is an accurate statement on Romney, but IT IS an attack because McCain voted against it.

    You can't have it both ways. He can't attack Romney for not voting soon enough when he was against it.

    This just goes to show you that Romney will give deep consideration to all issues, not just throw his votes around willy nilly.

    I'm behind Romney 100%.

    January 14, 2008 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  5. Ryan

    It's about time Senator McCain started calling Mitt on the claims that he makes.

    I challenge Romney to come up with someone credible from Mass who will defend him.

    This will go unanswered, I guarantee it because his solutions work well for the wealthy, but have little impact on the lower and middle class. But what else would you expect? He has zero "real-world" work experience. He's spent the years most of us had to use to work for our gas money or pay our student loans by attending the nation's most elite learning institutions without a care in the world.
    How can this clown now claim to know us or lead us?

    Mitt, your fortune can't buy the American mind.

    January 14, 2008 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  6. Cami

    Does McCain think the American public are stupid? He can call it whatever he wants but the bottom line is, he is doing a negative campaign.

    January 14, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  7. JDS N.C.

    In 2000 he took it without responding forcibly. Dont back down this time McCain.

    January 14, 2008 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  8. Little Dave - AZ

    Big Doug,

    You are absolutely correct. I am from AZ and up until that bill passed I thought I lived in Mexico. Now illegals that live here are moving to other states. We need a national law that will send them all back to the countries they came from; until they decide to come here through proper channels. McCain will just invite foreginers to over-run this country!!!

    Little Dave

    January 14, 2008 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  9. NewPatriot-Arizona

    McCain is absolutely not going to make it in this Presidential campaign! He has too much baggage and has too many problems of his own to make America any safer! He stated in the South Carolina debate on Fox that he was not interested in trading with al-queda , he was only considering trading burkas , what kind of leadership is this? I don't take this lightly.

    January 14, 2008 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  10. MajorHart

    I don't believe John McCain was a pow or a war hero.

    He has fought tooth and nail to provent his pow "debriefing" from being made public.

    He's hiding plenty and is not to be trusted – nor hillary or obama.

    What a bunch of maggots.

    And now Ron Paul is saying he won't challenge an obvious fraudulent count. I'm against obama too but he too is not challenging the count – even though he lead in the polls.

    Something is up – were their families threatened. This election is about Globalism and they don't want anybody that is not a puppet in.

    January 14, 2008 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  11. Dan in TX

    So let me get this straight....McCain says "It’s not negative campaigning...it’s what [Romney's] record is," but when Romney send out similar materials it's actually "negative campaigning"? Get real.

    Sort of like Huckabee saying he won't run ads about other candidates, but just have a peek at what we were going to air...

    January 14, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  12. Roleven

    Beautifully hypocritical. I love how when McCain attacks, it is just pointing out the record. When others do the same thing, it is a "personal attack." What McCain is doing is exactly the same as what Romney, Thompson, and everyone else is doing. Just like McCain, they say they are just pointing out the record. Looking at the ads, they are exactly the same. McCain, you can't have it both ways. McCain's hypocrasy is what is keeping me from getting behind him in this race.

    January 14, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  13. golfmanjeff

    When you look at the top GOP Candidates, Romney, McCain, Huck and Guiliani, only one seems like the CEO I'd want of the largest company in the World, the USA, and thats Romney. Flip-flopping on a certain issue is NOT something to be looked down upon. It shows an ability to think through an issue and have the gumption to change your thoughts, rather than simply sticking to a position because your polling says you should.

    Guiliani, Huckabee, and especially McCain seem like lightweights when it comes to leadership qualities. I'd eliminate mccain immediately since he's never actually governed. I have a hard time with Huckabee on Immigration as he's almost a No-stance policy of enforcement(no leadership). Guiliani would make a great Secretary of State.

    When Jim Cramer (a stated Democrat) says Romney is hands down the best candidate on EITHER SIDE, its hard to argue.

    January 14, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  14. The Dude

    McCain is responding correctly. Mitt is a phony flip-flopper who's yet another rich guy, born w/ a silver spoon in his mouth, Daddy's boy. He will say ANYTHING and do ANYTHING to get elected. He's a joker. I know, I lived through him being "governor" in Massachusetts. I put governor in quotes since he was never here and started campaining for president two years into his term. PHONY!

    January 14, 2008 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  15. ne,pa

    McCain, Is that "forceful" as in attack Iran...you old warmonger...

    January 14, 2008 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  16. Marti, San Diego CA

    Oh boy....let McCain's temper start flying. Great, people may soon remember why they rejected him the first time. He's a hot head.

    What's more, he's a hypocritcal hot-head. McAnesty has now said "We don't like negative campaigning...negative campaigning doesn't work....but we're going to do it." Uh??? OK. Actually, you and Huck just like to say that you don't like negative campaigning because you don't like it when somebody exposes those elements of your record that are questionable at best.

    Sounds like a McAmnesty flip flop to me – I was for negative campaigning until I was against it until I'm for it again.

    GO ROMNEY!!!

    January 14, 2008 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  17. Walt, TX

    I'll vote for McCain, but if it is Romney, then I'll become a democrat!

    January 14, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  18. Dave C - NJ

    Rule #1: "It's only a negative campaign if it's not yours."

    Rule #2: Learn to say Rule #1 with a straight face.

    January 14, 2008 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  19. Jay Bee

    I won't share my thoughts with you all. However,

    I talked with an 85 year old lady the other day and she said, "I'm not going to vote for McCain because he's old. It's not that the mind goes, it's just the energy level. I suspect it takes a lot of energy to be a President."

    I am not sure if I can vote for McCain until I know who his Vice President is. A vote for McCain may be a vote for his Vice President?

    Oh, look, I guess I did share my thoughts, looks like I did a Huckabee.

    "A Huckabee" definition – saying you won't do something, then doing it anyway.

    Looks like McCain is doing a Huckabee here as well.

    January 14, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  20. Mark in Dallas Texas

    I'm taking McCain at his word on this one. Romney has grossly outspent all the other GOP candidates put together, much of it on negative advertisements. But all the money in the world won't convince anybody that Romney is something he's not. Romney has reinvented himself from a moderate/liberal to a social conservative to another "Reagan" to a technocratic "fixer." The latest polls show Romney a distant fourth nationwide. And he has the highest poll numbers of people who will not vote for him no matter what. But he will still be a factor because of his deep pockets, at least through Feb 5th.

    January 14, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  21. Sunshine

    Being a new American (legal) I am distressed at how the press promotes John McCain when he does not APPEAR to reflect the Republican Party. Interesting also how 90% of the press had negated Mitt Romney, who has definitely shown us his mettle and intelligence. He answers all questions and there is not hesitation when responding. I hope Mitt Romney remains in the race and shows the country his worth.....

    January 14, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  22. G, Margate, FL

    are you kidding me, McCain needs to go back to the Senate, Ron Paul is the real candidate

    Ron Paul 08

    January 14, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  23. JBell in CA

    Do we really want a person in their 70's running the country. Ever heard of retirement John?

    January 14, 2008 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  24. AJ, Iowa City, IA

    McCain and Huckabee are starting to sound alike! "Ohhhh, Negative Campaign! Negative Campaign!" Like Huckabee wasn't behind the push-poll we recieved in the beginning of December.

    Wait a minute... To think that Mitt Romney would bring up voting records and actual facts that occurred in the past. For shame Mitt Romney! We, as Americans, have a right to vote for the wolf in sheeps clothing, or in the case of these two, the Democrat in Republican clothing. We reserve the right to have the wool pulled over our eyes. To think, that we, as Americans, would actually vote on the issues, records, and projected plans for the future. You can see Mr Mitt Romney that we do not care about the "Keating Five" or "McCain/Feingold." And to speak of negative campaigning, we forgot all about the campaing that John McCain put together in 2000. No sir, not one bit.

    Come on people wake up, Romney is not negatively campaigning. He is putting FACTS out there for people to be the judge. Unlike most of the candidates thus far, he actually respects the American people and their level of intelligence.

    McCain and Huckabee – bad news for America!

    January 14, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  25. Cat, Costa Mesa, CA

    Dan in TX,

    That's exactly what I was thinking!! Everyone knows that the "negitive campaigning" is just political proccess, but blaming your attack ads on another candidate is weak. You hear that McCain?? You're weak!! Why don't you man up and release your ads without excuses and the blame game?!

    January 14, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
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