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Unity watch: Republicans (not) for McCain

You might have heard (via Kos) that Democratic Oklahoma Rep. Dan Boren is not endorsing Sen. Barack Obama for President. Oh, he’ll vote for him, he just won’t endorse. This has gotten no small amount of press.

Meanwhile, there are fourteen sitting Republican members of Congress who aren’t endorsing Sen. John McCain.

At least 14 Republican members of Congress have refused to endorse or publicly support Sen. John McCain for president, and more than a dozen others declined to answer whether they back the Arizona senator.

Many of the recalcitrant GOP members declined to detail their reasons for withholding support, but Rep. John Peterson (R-Pa.) expressed major concerns about McCain’s energy policies and Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) cited the Iraq war.


Republican members who have not endorsed or publicly backed McCain include Sens. Chuck Hagel (Neb.) and Jeff Sessions (Ala.) and Reps. Jones, Peterson, John Doolittle (Calif.), Randy Forbes (Va.), Wayne Gilchrest (Md.), Virgil Goode (Va.), Tim Murphy (Pa.), Ron Paul (Texas), Ted Poe (Texas), Todd Tiahrt (Kan.), Dave Weldon (Fla.) and Frank Wolf (Va.). [Wolf contacted The Hill following publication of the article to correct his staff’s error. His staff had said he has “yet to endorse McCain” and did not return follow-up phone calls this week].

Throughout his career in the House and Senate, McCain has been at odds with his party on a range of issues, including campaign finance reform, earmarks, immigration, healthcare, taxes and energy.

Some Senate Republicans were especially irked with McCain’s role in the “Gang of 14” deal on judicial nominations.

Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), who has been sharply critical of McCain on immigration, told The Hill in February, “I don’t like McCain. I don’t like him at all.”

Tancredo spokesman Mac Zimmerman said Tancredo won’t endorse McCain because he fears the senator would repudiate it like he did with the formal backing of controversial pastor John Hagee.

However, Tancredo told ABC News this week he will reluctantly vote for McCain.

Gilchrest and Hagel, who disagree with McCain’s views on Iraq, have been mum on their endorsements. Kathy Hicks, spokeswoman for Gilchrest, said, “Since he was not reelected to public office, he’s keeping his thoughts private.” Gilchrest lost in a Republican primary earlier this year.

Jones, who has voted repeatedly with Democrats on Iraq, said he can’t back McCain until he gets “a better explanation of the plans for Iraq and more discussion on the economy.” Jones added that no one from McCain’s campaign has reached out to him.

Hagel’s position is pretty well-known, and of course Ron Paul hasn’t given up the fight yet – indeed, he’s planning his own convention in Minnesota even as he finally abandons his Presidential campaign – but there’s a lot of names there I was unaware of. Ted Poe? Jeff Sessions? I’d guess Poe dislikes McCain’s stance on immigration, but still, who knew? Not me, anyway.

Now this may not hurt McCain, in the sense that a little separation from the Republican brand would help him bolster his mavericky image for independents, but that’s still a considerable amount of coolness towards him from his partymates. It’s also pretty remarkable given how long he’s been the nominee. Just more evidence of the enthusiasm gap, I suppose.

By the way, the last Democratic member of Congress from Texas to endorse has done so, as Rep. Nick Lampson has given his official support to Obama. That leaves Robert Strauss as the only holdout, but from the description given there, I expect that will change soon enough.

UPDATE: Evan Smith also wonders about Rep. Poe, and says he’ll call his office to inquire. Good.

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