The book states that in 2001, Daschle and other Democrats were attempting to persuade three Republicans to leave their party: Jeffords, Chafee, and McCain.
Asked which one was the closest to committing, Daschle answered, “Depended on the day.”
On page 62, Daschle wrote that McCain and Chafee “seemed like real possibilities” to bolt their party. He pointed out that few, if any, of McCain’s people were hired by the Bush administration.
“John didn’t think that was right,” Daschle wrote, “that his staff should be penalized like that.”
Chafee confirmed to The Hill this week that he had meetings with Democrats about changing parties in 2001 because he was “alarmed” at the differences between President Bush’s campaign promises and the policies coming out of his administration.
Weaver said he hasn’t read Daschle’s book, which does not mention the Downey-Weaver lunch.
Mark Salter, who in 2001 was McCain’s chief of staff and now works for the senator’s campaign, said McCain has not at any moment thought about leaving the Republican Party: “Never at any time. Never.”
Salter said there were no staff discussions about this issue, noting he would have been in on them.
Soon after Bush was inaugurated as the nation’s 43rd president, McCain was working with Democrats on many issues, ranging from gun control to healthcare to campaign-finance reform.
McCain’s links to Democrats were so clear that Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) — now a close ally of McCain — publicly criticized him in the early part of 2001 for keeping “unusual company.”
Jeffords pulled the trigger on May 24, 2001, throwing control of the Senate to Democrats. Chafee and McCain then broke off their discussions with Democratic leaders, according to Democrats.
When Jeffords stopped being a Republican, it sent shockwaves through Washington, and obviously, someone put the screws to the moderates. Someone had to have stepped in to keep Chafee from switching, at least. I would count Chafee [now out of the Senate], Snowe, and Collins as the more moderate wing of the Northeastern strain of the Republican Party. Any time Snowe or Collins wants to join the Reality-based crowd and become Democrats, fine with me.
When wingnuts say things like "I'd rather vote for Hillary than McCain," perhaps it is because they remember when McCain was ready to leave the Republican Party. And give McCain credit--he knew what Bush was really all about.