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Senator John McCain Speaks of His Newfound Popularity (Interview)

Location: Upfront Tonight




GERALDO RIVERA, co-anchor: Not knowing the leader of Chechnya was the least of George W.'s problems today. A new poll released by WNDS-TV shows the Republican primary in New Hampshire is turning into a real horse race. Thirty-eight percent of the likely primary voters now saying they are Bush supporters. That's way down from his high. But McCain closing fast; his support surging to 30 percent. . Earlier today I caught up with the senator on the campaign trail in New Hampshire—asked him about his newfound popularity.

Senator JOHN McCAIN (Republican, Arizona): I think we have traction here and in New Hampshire. In New Hampshire, it's retail politics. We've spent a great deal of time here, 40 or 50 town hall meetings, thousands of questions. I spo—speak briefly and they respond. And I'm very pleased, but we've got a long way to go; still behind. Most New Hampshire citizens have not made up their minds. That's their habit. And so we have a long way to go. I would have liked to have seen this maybe a little later, but I'm very happy. And it's a testimony to the kind of campaign we're running, but have no doubt we're still the underdog and still got a long way to go.

RIVERA: Any chance that you're peaking too early?

Sen. McCAIN: You never know in these kinds of things. And that's the one thing you would always like to control. But I'm pleased with the numbers, and we know and we've already seen that the heat is going to go up and the intensification of the whole process is increasing. But it's a tough business we're in.

RIVERA: The heat's going to go up, the Bush campaign will definitely continue to try and goad you into making a—a misstep...

Sen. McCAIN: Mm-hmm.

RIVERA: ...or misstatement or maybe getting a—a—a temper tantrum. Will they succeed?

Sen. McCAIN: Well, I'm sure of one thing, Geraldo. I'll say something stupid. Because I very seldom go for more than a week without saying something stupid. As far as becoming angry is concerned, if the Congress continues to pork barrel on the defense bill when 12,000 enlisted families are on food stamps, I'll continue to get angry. But I will still and always maintain control of myself. But I feel passionately about issues, I would not have served this country for all these years if I didn't have a keen and acute sense of right and wrong and a passion for public service.

RIVERA: Two months, they're going to try and rough you up.

Sen. McCAIN: They'll do it, too.

RIVERA: Good luck.

Sen. McCAIN: Thanks.

RIVERA: I like his chances. We'll be right back. Stay tuned.

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