2012 GOP race is 'nastiest' campaign yet, McCain says
March 18th, 2012
11:54 AM ET
10 years ago

2012 GOP race is 'nastiest' campaign yet, McCain says

(CNN) – Sen. John McCain knows his way around rough politics: an opponent started rumors during the 2000 presidential race that he fathered an illegitimate African-American, and a CNN fact check called false his 2008 vice presidential pick's assertion that now-President Barack Obama was "palling around with terrorists."

But the veteran politician from Arizona – first elected to the Senate in 1986 – said Sunday that the current Republican presidential campaign is the most brutal race he has seen, fueled in part by super PACs that have rivaled campaigns in spending on this election.

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"This is the nastiest I have ever seen," McCain said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

The two-time presidential contender is not watching this GOP primary entirely from the sidelines: McCain is among several high-profile political figures actively stumping for Mitt Romney, and one of his roles has been to attack former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on behalf of the former Massachusetts governor.

"When you have a Las Vegas casino mogul - by the way, who gets part of his money from Macao - pouring $20 million into a campaign, obviously that drives up people's unfavorables," McCain said of donations to a pro-Gingrich group by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife. A casino in the Chinese semi-autonomous region of Macao is owned by a company under Adelson's control. Forbes lists him as the seventh richest person in the United States.

Another super PAC favoring Gingrich, Winning Our Future, spent $1.3 million on advertising, most of it critical of Romney, in South Carolina, according to CNN media consultant CMAG. A source close to Adelson told CNN in January that the donations were with "no instruction" and that Adelson had no role in strategy or advertisement content.

McCain, co-author of campaign finance legislation known as "McCain-Feingold" that limited corporate and private donations, has been harshly critical of the U.S. Supreme Court's "Citizens United" decision that cleared the way for super PAC spending. He predicted Sunday "there will be scandals and then maybe we will reform again."

The super PAC funding, as well as weakness on Romney's part, is keeping Gingrich's campaign afloat, McCain said.

"Mitt Romney will tell you he has to do a better job and he has to focus on the economy. And he has been giving speeches on the economy and jobs, and I think he is improving dramatically as a candidate," he added.

– CNN Senior Producer Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.

Filed under: 2012 • John McCain • Mitt Romney • Newt Gingrich • Republicans
soundoff (63 Responses)

    Sure, the doofus who picked Snooki Palin thinks that Mitt McCain is doing fine. The scandal happened when the bought and paid for Supreme Court gave us Citizens United. Check into that.

    March 18, 2012 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  2. NameOhNoWay

    It's nasty bc the Rs are in shock and awe that Pres Obama was elected and is pulling us out of the Repub massacre of our economy! No thanks to returning to the bridges to no where! They have shown no path, only scorched earth.... Only Obama and legislators who will work for the mass, not the few.

    March 18, 2012 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  3. They ought to change from the elephant to the hippo...

    Poor John... Still full of hyperbole... How much nastier is what their spewing now than 'fathering a black baby' or 'palling around with terrorists'? Just repeating the current lies they tell about each other over and over... I guess I don't see how that is any nastier... But I guess than given Mitt's your man, you just want the other to drop ASAP, and this is a transparent attempt to get them to do so...

    March 18, 2012 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  4. Debbie

    I don't get why media asks McCain what he thinks. 1) He lost the bid for President. 2) He's not running for President this time. McCain is no longer relevant.

    March 18, 2012 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  5. vic , nashville ,tn

    Mr. Mcain We won’t be here today if you didn’t change your maverick position in 2010 senate race

    March 18, 2012 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  6. Squigman

    Nasty? Maybe the root cause is that republicans are natural liars, and consumate finger pointers. Want someone judgmental? Call a republican. Want bigotry? Call a republican. Want convoluted logic, masked as enlightenment? Call a republican. Want racist remarks brought forth as humor? Call a republican. Want more?

    March 18, 2012 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  7. B

    McCain should know......

    Put him on the golf course.

    March 18, 2012 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  8. Joan

    Sen. McCain forgets that he gave out as good as he got. He ran some pretty sarcastic campaigns and made some pretty outrageous remarks. What about his joke about Hilary Clinton and Janet Reno? He is correct about the Super Pacs having a very negative effect on this whole election cycle. This Republican primary is nothing compared to what is bound to happen in the general election campaigns coming up. The Supreme Court bowed to the Republican pressure and voted in favour of the Super Pacs. Now it is causing havoc in the Republican primaries. Sometimes you need to be careful what you wish for.

    March 18, 2012 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  9. Dvet

    Republicans stopped caring about the people of the united states when they went global. Now the people of the united states are going to rebuild america and we are done with republicans. Dems 2012 and beyond

    March 18, 2012 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  10. LR

    Pot...meet kettle....

    March 18, 2012 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  11. Annie, Atlanta

    The GOP has been nasty ever since we elected an African American as our President, not even pretending to hide it anymore. However, that whole American and Non-American parts of the country by Palin at all of her hate rallies will stay with me for a very long time. The division between them and us was palpable, and still is.

    March 18, 2012 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  12. twoguns

    Tea Party's Arab Spring in full bloom! Hilarious! GOP Supreme Court sells out (again) to special interest & let's corporations buy elections outright. Problem for neanderthals Scalia & Thomas is that they envisioned ALL that new money going straight to Republican National party banks accounts. They never foresaw the loss of control of GOP primary process via PACs.
    GOP stacked the primaries in favor of rural America. Forcing Texas, California & New York to vote after the candidate is normally already chosen guarantees GOP will always stay a NRA/Trailer park/Confederate states fringe party.
    So now you have typical political mouth piece Sanatorium pandering to Tea Party (who GOP at first denied they controlled) promising to step back into the age of witch burning (& re-subjectification of women as a bonus). Sanatorium will worry about the general election when & if he manages to be on the ticket. Romney/Sanatorium 2012 or will it be Sanatorium/Romney 2012? Sound like they have no chance? Just remember this. GOP attacked senior citizens by attempting to wipe Social Security out. GOP still has almost 50% support in latest polls.

    March 18, 2012 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  13. Hiram3

    The nastiest thing about the current campaign is how many lies the DNC, as well as the leftist, libby media regurgitation of half-truths against most of the GOP candidates, and the Hollywood trash, have delivered. Saying that Governor Palin was incorrect about the community organizer in 2008 is an example of the lies of the leftist media !!!

    March 18, 2012 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  14. Evskie

    Fact Republicans were asked a begining of the race to dial back attack adds against each other because it would harm thier chances to run against Obama. Instead attack adds are up 400% and thats against each other. That sums up the integrity of the Republican party.

    March 18, 2012 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  15. Stan

    Wow... read the comment by the very first poster, "Dvet." Well said. This is why we should re-think the appointment of Supreme Court justices for life. A majority five justices can change the entire direction of a country as they did with the Super Pac decision. What's wrong with maybe a 16 year appointment?

    March 18, 2012 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  16. Blake

    Takes nasty to know nasty John. That's the Tea/Republican modus operandi. Un-American!

    March 18, 2012 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  17. Al

    McCain should retire. Nobody is interested in anything this fossil has to say.

    Next to Bob Dole he was the worst the most useless, nominee the Republicans ever had.

    March 18, 2012 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  18. JuanVonDinklus

    Yep and his own VP nominee took it to a whole new level, just like the the person he supports in 2012. Love it when McCain talks about this but then has people surrounding him that do what he so hates. The man is smart, but getting delusional.

    March 18, 2012 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  19. Socrates

    McCain supports Romney. Great choice even that there is nobody worthy to support in that bunch except and maybe Ron Paul. Does McCain knows that Romney has off shore accounts to avoid to pay taxes in his own country? How low can you get when the average Joe pays taxes religiously. Disgusting. And this guy is the frontrunner. Maybe someday the Republicans are going to awake in the morning and look at themselves in the mirror and AYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY

    March 18, 2012 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  20. GordyB

    What do think these crazies will do if they win? The U S will be on the path to a third world county. They have already demonstrated they would eat their young.

    March 18, 2012 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  21. New Moon Rising

    I agree... if Jon McCain is aghast at the level of nastiness in this campaig, he need look no further than his past campaign with that totally in-ept choice of Caribou Barbie... I mean, sarah Palin... The republican are wallowing in the extreme bed they made for themselves .. . and lets face it, while there used to a lot of decent republicans.. who cared so much about this country that they saw the biigger picture of compromise as the guiding principal upon which the founding fathers envisioned our democracy at work ... what they didn't bank on was the point at which non-statesmen like, un-educated trailer trash, devoid of the common decency would scourge our country into gridlock, all because roughly 85 tea-members of the republican party, would show their traitorous and un-patriotic disdain for the country, the middle class, the american economy, fueled mostly by their absolute and fervent Christian Hatred toward the first african american president... of course they will dress it up in nonesense like birth certificates and socialism, just to avoid the blatent attack based on their racism ... but we all know what the real truth is ... and those unpatriotic members of coungress suffer the fate we give to all american traitors ...

    March 18, 2012 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  22. pb

    John McCain is in lala land. No one could have been more vicious than he and Sarah Palin and Cyndi McCain in their stump speeches. Even their appearance made me cringe.

    March 18, 2012 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  23. Hawk in Texas

    YOU AINT SEEN NOTHING YET. Every true american should wake up and vote democrat. because if we get another republican in this election there will probably be two or three supreme court openings this term. and a republican will nominate more like the five bought and paid for roberts court. just think how it will be with seven or eight partisan republican judges on the court. we will be living in a republican controlled dictatorship. that is what the republicans have allways wanted. look at texas the republicans have rigged it to where no democrat can win statewide office.

    March 18, 2012 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  24. Tom in Illinois

    The epublicans are nasty to each other,but they have been a lot nastier to their fellow Americans.Dump S.S. medicare,unemployment insurance,tax the poor,get rid of Fema,and give themselves a big tax break.Ship 10 million factory jobs to China.You GOP ers are nasty

    March 18, 2012 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  25. Pat

    Yeah..........and when they GET a nominee, the enemies will turn around and praise him.......probably to the heavens.

    March 18, 2012 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
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