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John McCain: Jobs, Not Contraception, Should Be Issue

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Sen. John McCain said today that Republicans need to pivot from debating the issue of contraception and get back to jobs and the economy as the party looks to make gains in the 2012 elections.

The Arizona Republican, the party’s 2008 nominee for president, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “I think there’s a perception out there” that the GOP is a party unfriendly to women “because of the way the whole contraception issue played out.”

Earlier this month the Senate voted, 51-48, to kill a GOP amendment that would allow companies and insurance providers to opt out of mandated birth control coverage for religious reasons. Democrats have continued to hammer the issue while conservative groups have pressured the Obama administration to roll back a rule that would require insurance companies to provide and pay for contraception services in accordance with the two-year-old health care law pushed through by Democrats.

McCain said the GOP should pivot from the contraception issue and “get back on to what the American people really care about: jobs and the economy.”

McCain, who is backing one-time political adversary Mitt Romney in the GOP presidential primary, predicted the former Massachusetts governor would win Illinois’ 54 delegates this week and ultimately the party’s nomination. He said that Romney is improving as a candidate and, like the rest of the party, needs to stick to an economic message.

“He’s working on doing a better job,” McCain said. “He’s got to focus more on the economy.”

But McCain said the long-going GOP primary “is the nastiest I have ever seen” and blamed massive spending from special interest groups allowed by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision for the discourse.

“It’s the result of the worst decision the Supreme Court has made in years,” said McCain, who authored the sweeping campaign finance reform law known as McCain-Feingold. Moving forward, McCain said, “there will be scandals, then maybe reform again.”

McCain also predicted that former Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) will probably stay in the presidential race despite losing considerable momentum.

“Because of the super PACs and the ability to get these huge blocks of money, he’ll probably stay in as long as he has bus fare,” McCain said.

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