Kyl Leads Surrogate Team Defending McCain

Posted September 2, 2008 at 5:59pm

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has never won a Mr. Congeniality contest in the Senate, but he is counting on several colleagues to speak on his behalf, help out on messaging and even do some damage control.

As the junior Senator from Arizona, Minority Whip Jon Kyl is a top surrogate at the convention for the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee.

Also helping out are McCain’s Senate buddies, Sens. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). Kyl is not scheduled to speak at the convention; Lieberman was slated to speak Tuesday night and Graham is set to speak on Thursday.

They are needed to counter the comments from Democratic Senators who have attacked their colleague. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) branded McCain “an empty suit,” while Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) on Monday called him a “bully” who treats people “terribly.”

Kyl was one of the first Senators to endorse McCain during the primary season. It was a lonely place, as many Members either have tense relationships with McCain or were attracted to other candidates, namely ex-Sen. Fred Thompson (Tenn.) and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Since McCain wrapped up the nomination, he has worked to shore up support among Senators and send them out on the road. McCain is counting on them to defend his choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.

The media scrutiny of Palin might limit her role as attack dog, and those duties might be turned over to Senators. Facing criticism that Palin was not fully vetted, the McCain camp turned to Graham. He made media rounds Tuesday afternoon to argue that Palin was a sound choice and would benefit the ticket. He then turned his attention to Democrats and their vice presidential nominee, Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden.

“As much as I like Joe Biden, he has done nothing to change the tone of Washington,” Graham said.

Kyl attended the Democratic convention in Denver to counter the Democratic spin with daily press conferences.

“I was with John when he was down. I’m with him when he’s up. … I’m supporting my colleague,” Kyl said.