January 14th, 2008
07:12 PM ET
14 years ago

South Carolina mail wars: Who struck first?

Both McCain and Romney have sent out mail in South Carolina critical of one another.

Both McCain and Romney have sent out mail in South Carolina critical of one another.

COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CNN) - Was John McCain's campaign playing offense or defense with a mail piece attacking Mitt Romney's tax record?

It's a sensitive question for McCain in South Carolina, where his presidential campaign in 2000 was famously derailed by an onslaught of negative attacks.

On Monday, after his campaign in that state sent out a mailer blasting Romney's record on taxes and accusing him of supporting taxpayer funded abortions, McCain faced a flurry of questions about the brochure from campaign reporters.

Who struck first? Romney's campaign, which originally circulated the mail piece to reporters on Saturday, points the finger at team McCain, calling the mailer a "hit piece."

McCain, campaigning in Michigan, told CNN he was playing defense against prior Romney attacks.

While he did not speak to which specific charge from Romney he was responding, McCain said his campaign's mailer was a justified strike against the "stack of mailers this high that attack me, literally this high that have flooded South Carolina for the last six months."

(Romney's campaign has sent out several pieces of issue-based contrast mail in South Carolina, but to this point, few, if any, mention McCain by name, and most target Mike Huckabee.)

But as it turns out, Romney's campaign did, in fact, send out a mailer criticizing McCain on taxes almost two weeks ago, which bolsters McCain's claim to playing defense, although it went unmentioned by the senator on Monday.

That Romney brochure, provided to CNN by a McCain aide, is a piece on contrast mail that asks, "Where do the candidates stand on fiscal responsibility?" and criticizes the tax records of McCain, Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani.

The mailer, which resembles similar pieces previously sent out by the Romney campaign, features a two-sentence mention of McCain's early opposition to the Bush tax cuts, and also criticizes two other Republicans.

By contrast, McCain's controversial mailer focuses its heat exclusively on Romney, hammering the former Massachusetts governor from four different angles on taxes, charges the Romney campaign calls "unsubstantiated" and "sloppy."

McCain told CNN Monday that his mail is "not negative campaigning" and he reserved the right to " respond in a very forceful fashion" to Romney.

Romney senior adviser Warren Tompkins, the hard-nosed South Carolina political consultant who worked against McCain on behalf of George W. Bush in 2000, accused the Arizona senator of being duplicitous.

"This isn't the first time that John McCain has tried to hang on to the high moral ground with one hand while slinging mud with the other," Tompkins said. "It's vintage angry McCain, and it's self-destructive because voters see right through it."

- CNN South Carolina Producer Peter Hamby

Filed under: John McCain • Mitt Romney • South Carolina
soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. AJ, Iowa City, IA

    McCain is like a bad magician. "Ohhh... here is a quarter behind your ear! Didn't you know you had a quarter behind your ear little girl!" The little girls response: "Look you crazy old man, I don't know you and no, the quarter is in your other hand, you pull my the barret out of my hair!"

    Come on, we can see right through you McCain!

    January 14, 2008 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  2. Vote08

    Time to find a nice retirement home McCain, your political days are over. You are one of the most negative and dirty politicians around.

    January 14, 2008 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |

    Romeny Economy gets my vote when he said JOBS JOBS JOBS.

    McCain is more like a Rambo looking for a fight. I need a job not a fight.

    The Hill-Billy's and Obama forgot to mention Republican Lincoln freed the slaves.

    January 15, 2008 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  4. steve wilmington

    After tomorrow, we will never hear from McCain again. He is a dinosaur. He was a hero. But decided to bail on his wife who kept hope in him. Decided to defraud the US as part of the Keating Five. Decided to give illegals a bill and enact McCain-Feingould....ummm, John McCain was gone 6 months ago and a bunch of liberal voters in New Hampshire gave him the nod. He is nothing more than a Bush puppet and believes 100 years in Iraq is feasible....
    The average life is around 74 in the US...John McCain is 72. He is too old. Too late. And gets bashed at every event he brings up Immigration.

    January 15, 2008 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  5. Kevin,FL

    South Carolina mail wars: Who struck first? Crap makes me LOL what are they in the 5th grade? Grow Up.. your running for President of the United States.. not Class President. CLINTON 08!!

    January 15, 2008 01:06 am at 1:06 am |
  6. 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 15, 2008 01:26 am at 1:26 am |
  7. Shawn

    What a hypocrite. McCain's true colors are shining through.

    January 15, 2008 02:04 am at 2:04 am |
  8. michael, grand prairie tx.

    Charlie Rangal accused Barack of playing the race card today and called him dumb and stupid.
    Barack Obama never commented on Clinton's remark, Rep Clyburn did. His high profile in the Dem party made his comments potent. Obama had nothing to do with that.Clyburn D-SC. interviewed with the NYT's on his on. Now i feel its his responsibilty to come out and let America know that he's not Dumb or Stupid.It's obvious that what Charlie's saying is that any one who who was offemded by her comments are dumb and stupid This was not a mistake by Hillary, these people are gutter politicians who will do just about anything to regain the power that they feel belongs to them. Please don't fall for the hype-its not the first time this tactic has been used.I feel that she's accepted a defeat in SC. So why not take Obama down on the one issue he's strongest on(swiftboat)lets make him seem divisive like us, See first they try and convince you(american people) there better for the country, but you(american people) dont fall for it, so know we'll make him look like us.DIVISIVE. We Want Fall For It Hill/Bill.

    January 15, 2008 03:40 am at 3:40 am |
  9. Alice Newman Center Harbor NH

    "But as it turns out, Romney's campaign did, in fact, send out a mailer criticizing McCain on taxes almost two weeks ago, which bolsters McCain's claim to playing defense, although it went unmentioned by the senator on Monday."

    Didn't we just go through this same thing in NH? Mitt's voice says "I approved this ad" attacking McCain on amnesty but in the debate, Mitt denied using the word – then flip-flopped, again, saying he didn't see that ad... Bud, you either approved it or you didn't! Can't always have it both ways!

    Watch Mitt fold under pressure ... he's only genial when he's the designated "front-runner" Mark Twain said that liars have to have good memories! Mitt even remembers watching his Dad march with MLK – didn't happen but sounds good!

    As for McCain – lessons learned in South Carolina from the 2000 election:

    January 15, 2008 05:00 am at 5:00 am |
  10. Alex from IL

    Lets see... who does most attacks aimed at other republican candidates? And who has the most money to do campaign ads?
    Oh yeah, I think that would be Mitt.

    January 15, 2008 06:26 am at 6:26 am |
  11. Isaac, Lexington MA

    Does it really matter who struck first? The only real thing to take away from all this is that McCain and Huckabee out and out lied to the American people when they said they wouldn't go negative in their campaigning. They both said one thing, and the very next day, went out and did something else. TIME magazine appears so pro-McCain it's almost laughable. What an unbiased source of news! McCain winning the Republican nomination would virtually guarantee the Democrats the White House in November. Lets face it: this country is tired of war. And the only thing McCain knows how to do is to wage it. Not a tough choice there. But lets instead turn to who can actually get the focus back on our domestic economy – Romney is more qualified than anybody from either party to lead our nation back to economic prosperity.

    January 15, 2008 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
  12. ne,pa

    Mavericks don't abide by rules. McCain only expects YOU to abide by HIS rules,not him.
    Haven't you heard, he was a POW, and he should get a pass on certain things!!

    P.S.: Romney's money was earned. McCain married his money after ditching his first wife!

    January 15, 2008 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  13. Jen Cedar Falls, IA

    All this crap and MCCain is STILL too old. Geez!

    January 15, 2008 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  14. Emma

    The Hill-Billy's and Obama forgot to mention Republican Lincoln freed the slaves.

    Republican Lincoln did free the slaves, but at that time the Republican party was considered more liberal while the Democratic was more conservative (by the standards of the day). The switch occured with FDR. And both parties would have been completely different in Lincoln's time than they are today. So Lincoln's party doesn't really matter here.

    January 15, 2008 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  15. Chris

    Yes, Republican Lincoln freed the slaves. Also remember Republican Lincoln was a liberal, the very word Republicans fear today. Whatever happened to the liberal Republican?

    January 15, 2008 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  16. Bob

    We don't need an ultra-conservative or an ultra liberal. That leaves us with McCain and Giuliani. I'm going McCain since he matches up best on the issues. Those of you who think that immigration issues are going away if you build a wall are kidding yourself. They're already going under around and over the walls that are there. There must be a guest worker program. The workers are needed & they will come legally or illegally (this is Economics 101). If legally, then we can collect taxes & pay for them being here & better control who is allowed in and who is not allowed in (criminals). It won't be perfect, but far better than we have today.

    January 15, 2008 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  17. Thomas, Baton Rouge, LA

    Well, It's happening again. Our current president showed his true colors back in 2000 for the SC primary. For some reason McCain seems to be the pinata.

    January 15, 2008 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  18. Tim, Minnesota

    McCain probably can't even lick the stamp on these letters.

    January 15, 2008 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  19. Chris, SC.

    Important read from Technocrat.net

    "Republican primary candidate Mitt Romney spoke today in Michigan, which will have its primary tomorrow. Romney, who was born in Michigan, was quoted on CBS radio today that he was gratified to see that most of the cars driven in Michigan are "made in the U.S." We in California, as well as others in many states, have a bone to pick with Mr. Romney.
    Mr. Romney, we have a local automobile plant here in the San Francisco Bay area. It produces the Toyota Corolla compact car, the Toyota Tacoma pickup truck and the Pontiac Vibe station wagon. It also makes parts, and sells 60% of them to Toyota and the remaining 40% to GM. It employs 5500 local people, and its primary business is Toyota-branded automobiles.

    Mr. Romney, you spoke today at the Detroit Economic Club and called for 20 Billion dollars of federal funds per year to go to U.S. automobile research – I.E. to be paid to the Detroit automakers.

    Mr. Romney, currently the U.S. automakers haven't only lagged behind on technology to build gas-sipping low-pollution cars, they've thrown away what technology they had. Let's not forget that GM pioneered the practical consumer electric car, only to reposess and junk all of the units on the road once California was talked out of mandating higher pollution standards. Toyota went on to self-finance the development of "Hybrid Synergy Drive", the basis of the immensely popular Prius, the highest-MPG conventional automobile available in the U.S. today. Vehicle R&D is going to be a good investment for taxpayers only if it goes to automakers who are committed to use it. The so-called "U.S." automakers, who actually have no shortage of foreign-made parts in their vehicles, are still not up-to-speed on the technology, quality and economic practices of the Japanese. As customers we're not willing to tolerate that. We've voted with our dollars, Mr. Romney.
    We here in California have a long memory, Mr. Romney. We used to have an excellent mass transit system in many of our cities. Between 1936 and 1950, National City Lines, a holding company sponsored and funded by General Motors, Firestone Tire, Standard Oil and Phillips Petroleum, bought out more than 100 mass transit systems in 45 cities including New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, Tulsa, Berkeley, Oakland, and Los Angeles, only to dismantle those systems. Our societies would be in better shape, our air would be cleaner today, and perhaps global warming would be less of a problem if U.S. automotive companies had not used their cash to destroy our most critical infrastructure and permanently change the structure of American cities and suburbs.

    So, drive your American Car back to Michigan, Mr. Romney. It's not wanted here."

    January 15, 2008 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  20. Marti, San Diego CA

    Perhaps republicans will remember one of the many reasons why they rejected McCain the first time – He's a hot-head. He's vindictive. He's hyporcritical...and he's certainly not the high road guy he'd have you believe.

    Also, this is yet another McCain flip-flop (see others – amnesty, Bush tax cuts, etc.). First he loved negative campaigning, then he was against it when Romney allegedly did it to him and now he's for it again now that he wants to do it. What a baby!

    McAmnesty knows that accomplishing a handful of items, controversial at best, in 24 years is no match for all that Mitt accomplished in four short years in MA. So what does he do – turns to negative campaigning....even though he likes to say it doesnt' work. What a piece of work.

    January 15, 2008 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  21. MVS

    kevin January 12, 2008 3:54 pm ET
    I believe McCain does not have anything new for change and is just going to follow failed Bush policy , american people should not be fooled again. Iraq war from beginning was failure and there will not be victory in this war and the only solution for it will be in Iraqi people hand.
    we need new man with totally different policy than Bush to change the course and raise our country and save our economy and people. NO BUSH NO MCCAIN !!!!!!!!!!

    January 15, 2008 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  22. Jay

    doesn't really matter who sent first. we all know this is the game of politics and this would happen. the elites have their candidate alpicked out. this is just part of the show.

    January 15, 2008 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  23. CW, SC.

    All of that GOP junk mail goes straight into the trash in this South Carolina home!

    January 15, 2008 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  24. Dave

    Wasn't McCain against negative campaiging before he was for it?


    January 15, 2008 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  25. Replace the Establishment

    Ron Paul said we are in a recession. Not sure how deep yet. Time will tell. Enough said, the government is in panic mode as usual.

    Asking the filthy rich like Bush, Clinton, Romney, McCain and the rest of the bunch whether or not we are in a recession is a joke! These people like the filthy rich news anchors in the media can afford to laugh at Ron Paul and the average person when they mention how difficult it is to survive from paycheck to paycheck. Dr. Paul is not hurting but he sure knows how bad the economy is getting and he is the only person who knows how to fix it!

    The current establishment is not solving problems (include the media) but they sure are taking a lot of food off the table of hungry Americans!

    January 15, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
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