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McCain-GOP Pact to Be Tested

Republicans this year find themselves in the unfamiliar position of having a presidential nominee who’s signature political issues — aside from his support for the war in Iraq — are largely outside the party’s mainstream. Both President Bush and his father had few policy stances that set them apart from the bulk of the party, while McCain, starting with his work on campaign finance reform, has made something of a career in breaking with the GOP.

A second GOP leadership aide argued that while the differences do exist, they will have little negative impact on the race. This aide noted that because the GOP is in the minority, McConnell is not responsible for setting the agenda and will not be under the kind of pressure Reid will be to bring legislation to the floor that is backed by the Democratic nominee. “I think it would be a bigger deal if we were in the majority. ... I think that’s a mitigating factor,” this aide said.

Additionally, the aide noted that McCain’s willingness to stand in opposition to his party has its benefits. “He gives us entree into communities we wouldn’t normally have,” the aide said.

Alexander agreed with the notion of McCain expanding the GOP playing field. “I think his strength is he can carry our message to more than 50 percent of Americans. If we get all the Republican votes, that’s only about 30 percent of votes, and that won’t work.”

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