February 6th, 2008
04:15 PM ET
14 years ago

On the Trail: King on Camelot

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/02/06/art.peter.king.cnn.jpg caption="Rep. Peter King tries to enjoy his newspaper post-Super Tuesday aboard Delta Shuttle 1953 to Washington, D.C. Photo credit: CNN/Wellen"]
SOMEWHERE BETWEEN NEW YORK AND WASHINGTON (CNN) – Tens of thousands of feet over the Atlantic, one of John McCain's biggest congressional supporters said the Republican presidential hopeful's biggest challenge in a fall matchup with Democrat Barack Obama would be to pull the Illinois senator's public image “out of the stratosphere, out of the mythology that’s already been created for him.”

The morning after strong Super Tuesday showings for both candidates, New York Rep. Peter King and I shared the Delta Shuttle flight from New York to Washington, D.C. For the quickie interview, King reclined his seat back the full two inches, and I pitched him questions from the row behind.

King, a longtime McCain supporter who backed the senator during his last presidential run in 2000, started out the current campaign cycle supporting fellow New Yorker Rudy Giuliani. He made the move to the McCain team after the former New York City mayor abandoned his White House bid, and spent much of the past week campaigning with the senator in New York.

(McCain - whose campaign famously battled former New York Gov. George Pataki to appear on the primary ballot in 2000 - this week won both the former governor's endorsement and the state's winner-take-all Republican contest.)

Obama’s rise, said King, was being portrayed as “almost a second coming of Camelot” - and in a McCain-Obama faceoff, the Arizona Republican could find himself “up against almost a myth, a legend.

"I’m not trying to be sarcastic here," he said. "Obama’s campaigning on a platform of hope, change, and John will need to bring it back to reality. What is Obama going to do about Islamic terrorism, about Iraq and the consequences of [Obama’s] immediate withdrawal plan?”

In a head-to-head race against fellow New Yorker Hillary Clinton, McCain would find himself in a “more traditional left-of-center, right-of-center fight,” King said.

The biggest Super Tuesday shocks for King? “I’m astounded by Clinton’s win in Massachusetts. After all that talk of the Kennedys, and Obama’s support there.” On the GOP side: Huckabee. “I am surprised by Mike Huckabee’s staying power – how well he did in so many states after spending so little money and having no nationally organized campaign. It had to be very disappointing for Romney.”

McCain's path to the GOP nomination is looking far more secure after his strong Tuesday showing - though King complained the drama on the Democratic side could prove a bigger obstacle than any of his rivals. Still, his primary opponents can't drop out soon enough for King.

“Part of the problem is Obama and Clinton are running so tightly, they are getting all the extra media attention, and a Republican won’t get the same coverage,” he said. “The sooner John becomes the nominee, the sooner we can consolidate support and money. John needs to remain in the public eye, and we need to make sure he has the money to do it.”

- CNN Senior Political Producer Alex Wellen

Filed under: John McCain
soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. JohnS

    Those who are CONCERNED about the soul and future of this nation, AND are well educated in the histories of the Clintons (Blue Dress, Lies to the nation, impeachments, failed healthcare policies, failure of the dems to win the White House in 8 years) should do all that is possible to stay away from the Clintons this time.

    What can this nation (or the Dems) gain by choosing Hillary as the nominee? I guess that is the question. It is NOT a matter of experience. It took Bill Clinton the "person skills" to bring people together to resolve the economic problems in the past. Bill DID NOT DO IT ALONE!!! Hillary LACKS the "people skills" and Bill has squandered all his goodwills to this nation!!! Just look at his recent performance.

    The only HOPE for change in this nation is now in Obama. The Dems can walk away from this, or deal with the reality of it— NO DEAL for the position. Obama will keep gaining grounds; please give him the time to do so. Who knew Hillary would be out of funds today, and remains in a "head-to-head" race with Obama? No Deal, No Deal, No Deal!!! (The only deal to consider is REFUND Hillary's $5M and ask her to walk away gracefully; she will need it to send Chelease to Germany to study and prepare for the Presidency).

    Obama should not even consider Hillary as a VP (because he will end up with 2 VPs– Hillary + Bill); the nation does not need an internal fight. We need a CLEAN slate to rewrite history!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    February 7, 2008 02:24 am at 2:24 am |
  2. Charlotte

    He's gonna ask the people around him. McCaskill taps him on the shoulder, Kerry grabs his elbow and LEADS him away, seems to me he needs a babysitter. Must be why McCaskill is never far away unless someone else is nearby????Kerry must have been jealous of Kennedy getting all the attention as his keeper. Hard to see the candidate with so many others at his elbow. LMAO

    February 7, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |