TOPICS > Politics

McCain Completes Comeback to Clinch GOP Nomination

March 5, 2008 at 6:10 PM EDT
Loading the player...
Last fall, Sen. John McCain's presidential bid was looking all but dead, with a shrinking, infighting staff and almost no money. On Tuesday, he picked up enough delegates to complete his remarkable comeback and win the GOP nomination.

JIM LEHRER: McCain comes back and wins. Judy Woodruff begins our report.

JUDY WOODRUFF: President Bush stood on the steps of the north portico at the White House this afternoon, joking with reporters as he waited for John McCain and his wife, Cindy, to arrive.

Their cordial meeting was a stark contrast to eight years ago, when the two were bitter rivals for the Republican nomination.

In formally endorsing McCain in the Rose Garden, Mr. Bush noted McCain’s character and that 2000 campaign.

GEORGE W. BUSH, president of the United States: I don’t think many people would have thought that John McCain would be here as the nominee of the Republican Party, except he knew he’d be here, and so did his wife, Cindy.

John showed incredible courage and strength of character and perseverance in order to get to this moment. And that’s exactly what we need in a president: somebody who can handle the tough decisions; somebody who won’t flinch in the face of danger.

We also need somebody with a big heart. I have got to know John well in the last eight years. I’ve campaigned against him, and I’ve campaigned with him. Laura and I have spent time in their house.

This is a man who deeply loves his family. He’s a man who cares a lot about the less fortunate among us.

JUDY WOODRUFF: McCain embraced the president’s support, also giving a nod to their history together.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), Arizona: Well, I’m very honored and humbled to have the opportunity to receive the endorsement of the president of the United States, a man who I have great admiration, respect and affection.

He and I, as is well-known, had a very good competition in the year 2000. And I was privileged and proud to have the opportunity to campaign for his election and re-election to the presidency of the United States.

I appreciate his endorsement. I appreciate his service to our country. I hope that the president will find time from his busy schedule to be out on the campaign trail with me.

And I will be very privileged to have the opportunity of being again on the campaign trail with him, only slightly different roles this time.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Both men kept the mood light as they took reporters’ questions.

JOURNALIST: Mr. President, how much do you intend to do for Senator McCain? And do you think, in some cases, that your help could actually hurt him more than help him?

GEORGE W. BUSH: Look, if my showing up and endorsing him helps him, or if I’m against him and it helps him, either way, I want him to win.

And it’s not about me. You know, I’ve done my bit. And, by the way, I’m not through. And I’m going to do a lot. And John’s right: I do have a day job to keep, and I plan on keeping it.

I’ve told the people that follow me in this press corps that I’m going to sprint to the finish, and I mean what I say. I’ve got a lot to do.

But I’m going to find ample time to help. And I could help raising money. And if he wants my pretty face standing by his side at one of these rallies, I’ll be glad to show up.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: Could I just say, that I do intend to campaign all across the country. I think that literally every section in this country is in play, and I will be glad to have the president with me, in keeping with his schedule, in any part of America. And we’re going to go everywhere in America with this campaign.

No word on a running mate

JOURNALIST: Mr. President, Senator McCain, sir, how would you counsel Senator McCain to chose a running mate?

GEORGE W. BUSH: I'd tell him to be careful about who he names to be the head of the selection committee.

Look, he's got plenty of experience. He knows what he needs to do, which is to have a process that, you know, vets candidates. And the person, you know, it's somebody he's got to be comfortable with and somebody whose advice he relies upon. And he can answer his own question on that, but...

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: Could I just say, Kelly, I didn't think it was appropriate to contemplate this process, as I've discussed before, until after we had secured the nomination of the party. Now we'll begin that process.

JOURNALIST: Should history make a difference, with a woman or an African-American on the Democratic side?

GEORGE W. BUSH: People don't vote for vice presidents, as much as I hate to say that, for those who have been candidates for vice president. They're going to vote for who gets to sit inside that Oval Office and make decisions on how to protect the country and keep taxes low and how to have a culture that respects the dignity of every human being. And that's what the race is all about.

I know there's going to be a lot of speculation on who the vice president, this and that. But the speculation's over about who our party's going to nominate.

JUDY WOODRUFF: McCain spent about two hours at the White House and afterwards traveled across town to the Republican National Committee's headquarters, another ceremonial step in his first day as the party's nominee-to-be.