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. Jose

    So as long as you don't campaign as negativly as the other candidate its ok?

    How John McCain is even in this race blows my mind.

    January 14, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  2. JWK

    There are too many people running that support amnesty. It would be a travesty if McCain, Huckabee, Obama, Edwards, or Clinton were to be elected as they would open the floodgates and allow us to become like any other third world country. We would be sold out to the UN and be taxed by them.

    January 14, 2008 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  3. Texas

    Base on being your age, I feel you need to retire along with me and let the younger people do the work for us now.
    You are ahead because you a scaring people to death about the war. No matter who wins the race we will have the same problems and need someone that thinks fast on their feet.
    Believe me it is hard to give up our position and turn it to our younger, but isn't that what we raised them for.

    January 14, 2008 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  4. krited

    Really, you think someone in his 70's is too old to be president? I don't know. I think Ronald Reagan did alright...

    January 14, 2008 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  5. Texas Teacher

    Anyone as hateful and who continually displays as many temper tantrums and outbursts as McCain/Huckabee don't need to be seated next to that good 'ol "NUKE'EM" button 🙁 ....Yikers! You can see how the candidates react to the other's honest comparisons of their records. There are but three...3...who DON'T lose their dignity/composure/reason and go off the deep end. That's Romney/Thompson/Obama. Anybody else in the "Button Seat" in times like these is a risky proposition for the contimuation of planet Earth, and mankind in general.

    Romney/Thompson would be firm and defend America, but would NOT attack based upon personal reasons sucah as losing their temper after someone points out their record. Could you imagine McPain/Hickabee in GWB's position today with the French/Canadian/Euro weinies, Chavez/Castro/I'madatdad(Ah'smadatdad?)/Putin/Osama/Hillary/Pelosi/Biden/Reid/Kucinich constantly hurling personal insult and negative/inflammatory rhetoric at them and America??? They's lose any semblance of self composure/control they ever DID have (if any at ALL that is) to begin with 🙁 ...

    Thompson/Romney in 2008!!!!

    January 14, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  6. David, Gilbert Arizona

    Mitt Romney is the Hillary Clinton of the republicans. His ads misrepresent other candidate's records and make claims which are blatantly false. He is the new "slick willy" candidate.

    In one ad Romney states that McCain voted to allow illegal immigrants to claim social security. This is blatantly false.

    Romney constantly uses the word amnesty when describing McCain's failed legislation. The word is inaccurate at best. Amnesty is a pardon. McCain's legislation would require illegal immigrants to pay thousands of dollars in fines and return to their country of origin before they could return to the United States as legal immigrants. In 2005 Mitt Romney said the McCain legislation was reasonable and said it was not amnesty. Mitt flip flops again just to pander for votes.

    Mitt Romney loves to point out that he cut taxes as govenor. This is true but misleading. Mitt increased fees across the board while tax rates stayed flat. Mitt defends his record by making the claim that a fee is not a tax even though the tax payer still has to flip the bill.

    Romney has pulled the same stunts with Huckabee such as his "tough on drugs" ad. The truth is that Arkansas drug laws are 4 times more strict than Mass.

    Romney is a huge flip flopper on illegal immigration. He made claims that Huckabee is soft on illegal immigration and that Huckabee favored instate tuition for children of illegal immigrants when in fact Romney made a statement in 2004 that he hated the idea that college tuition is unafforable for illegal immigrants.

    So no, Romney is not pointing out what McCain's and Huckabee's records are. He is twisting their records and making false claims. That indeed is negative campaigning and the very reason why I would never vote for the man. He is a Carl Rove with better hair.

    All of this is easily obtained through FactCheck.org

    January 14, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  7. Bill, Albany, NY

    Lets see here we have for the top Republicans;

    1. Rudy
    Who loves authority wayyyy too much

    2. Huckabee
    Who has the backing of the racist, bigoted, and dogmaic religious right

    3. Romney
    Who positions change more than a Las Vegas stripper

    4. McCain
    Who tells it like it is, wont pander to the bible thumpers and is willing to work with the other side.

    Yea I think McCain is our man.

    January 14, 2008 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  8. Eddy

    McCain should be in a resting home, taking care of his health. If you're over 70, I'm sorry, but this job ain't for you. Also, McCain is more of a flip-flopper than Romney is many issues, including taxes, which is most important to me. So, I guess I'm voting for Romney.

    January 14, 2008 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  9. Eddy

    I guess CNN is not turning into Chavez' way of doing business by censoring the public's opinion when they disagree with CNN. Sad, really sad.

    January 14, 2008 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  10. Tom

    Has anyone actually seen Mitt Romney's so-called "attack ads?" I have. The one for McCain starts out, "John McCain. Good man. Served his country. But where does he stand on tax cuts?" It then shows how McCain twice voted against Bush's tax cuts while Romney supports them. I've also seen Romney's ads on Huckabee. Same story. Romney's ads do not attack anyone on a personal level but merely contrasts their positions and records to his own.

    Republicans better start asking who they want to face off against Hillary or Barack. Choice 1: A man who was the valedictorian at Brigham Young University and then graduated in the top 5% at Harvard with a combined MBA/Law Degree; made a fortune for himself, his employers and his clients by turning around dozens of companies in as many industries; took an Olympics that was $300 million in debt and managed it to a $150 million surplus while overseeing 23,000 staffers; took a state that was $3 billion in debt and left four years later with $500 million surplus and for good measure provided health care to everyone in the state without raising taxes. Choice 2: A 71-year-old war hero with a serious anger-management problem who would be 72 when he was sworn in. Choice 3: A Baptist preacher who governed a state with a smaller population than Chicago.

    One last point: Among non-evangelical voters in Iowa, Romney came in first, McCain second and Huckabee third. Among Republican voters in New Hampshire (excluding independents), Romney came in first and McCain second. Romney has garnered more votes than any other Republican candidate.

    Mitt's the man.

    January 14, 2008 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  11. Sharon

    To candidate McCain: I will vote for you if Obama gets nominated.

    January 14, 2008 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  12. Jason, Bedford MA

    Hypocrite, hypocrite, hypocrite. That's you McCain. Romney may have changed his position on a few issues, but at least he doesn't LIE about them. 'Straight talk' that you arrogant politician.

    January 14, 2008 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  13. Steve

    Good for you McCain, Romney is sleaze. There isn't an economist worth his salt that doesn't acknowledge many of the lost jobs in Michigan aren't coming back, and yet Romney has the audacity to call out McCain for stating the obvious. I say tear him to pieces, he deserves every bit of it.

    January 14, 2008 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  14. Marti, San Diego CA

    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 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  15. Gobama






    January 14, 2008 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  16. Mechelle

    Here's a flip flop joke for you:

    Which GOP candidate was a long time Episcopalian, but recently announced they were Baptist?

    Which GOP candidate decided that his first wife (who waited for him while he was a POW) wasn't worth waiting for after she got into a bad traffic accident and married the daughter of a wealthy businessman instead?

    Which GOP candidate votes more with the liberals on immigration, abortion and
    his work with the Gang of 14, a group that sought to compromise with the Democrats in the Senate in order to get more moderate judges approved, was an unforgivable offense for conservatives concerned about the federal judiciary?

    You're so smart! It's McCain!

    January 14, 2008 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  17. StraightTalkLies, USA

    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 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  18. J Williamson Buffalo, NY

    Spoken like a true politician – nice going John McCain!

    January 14, 2008 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  19. Teacher

    He should not chew gum and think at the same time.

    January 14, 2008 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  20. ne,pa

    McCain, Do you mean "forceful response" as in bomb Iran...you old war monger...

    January 14, 2008 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  21. Gundy - Out west.

    I thinks they should all attack! Thats what its about....getting the facts out. As long as they are facts. Mitt Romney was criticized for starting the 'attack ads' first – now all of them are doing it, woopdeedooo.

    January 14, 2008 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  22. Jose Card - Independent

    I don't believe the majority of comments for McCain are negative as my own positive comment on McCain was not posted, either.

    The other question is that why he leads in the polls, but lags so much on cnn.com.

    Of course, we posters' comments are no indication of the population, because we volunteer our comments. This is non-scientific sampling.

    January 14, 2008 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  23. steve wilmington

    McCain, sir,
    Who will pay for the illegals to learn English?
    How will we test for them? We will need to build/spend money on this...
    How about funding for the ID cards?
    How can we be sure they all report in and out of the country?

    John McCain....clueless on immigration, its present costs, and his future costs to add more funding toward them.

    January 14, 2008 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  24. Renaisauce

    I wish McCain would stop whining about "negative" campaigning. Commercials were not the reason that Romney came in 2nd. He lost in Iowa because of the evangelical base, and he lost in "Same Old" Hampshire because McCain had been campaigning there for eight years. The most damaging thing about Romney's ads is that they are usually right- and the differences between them are vast. Besides, it's not like McCain has been holding back scorn and cheap shots up until now. I can't understand his appeal as a candidate. I think, now that the media frenzy isn't blurring things, that Romney will become the clear option for people. He's clearly the Republican choice.

    January 14, 2008 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  25. dk200

    So, let me get this straight if Romney airs ads that question the Senator's record it's NEGATIVE campaigning, but when Senator McCain does it, it's a response and it's certainly not considered negative-oh no! But when Mccain makes his rehearsed, petty, Beavis and Butthead comment about Gov. Romney being the "candidate of change" what the hell do we call that- POSITIVE??
    Oh, and it's also not tit-for-tat which means.....????? So if you only lie once then it's ok, but if you did it everytime it's horrible. Hmmm. People in this country better figure things out. McCain is a hot-headed maverick and there's no telling what he'll do when he feel threatened. Can someone tell me why people like him so much. I know he says, "look my friends", but that doesn't make me feel all warm and fuzzy, is it working for everyone else out there?

    January 14, 2008 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
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