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John McCain is using Richard Nixon's approach to make a political comeback all the way to the White House.

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McCain is following Richard Nixon’s path

John McCain is using Richard Nixon’s approach to make a political comeback all the way to the White House.

John McCain is using Richard Nixon’s approach to make a political comeback all the way to the White House.

After losing in 1960 to John F. Kennedy and in 1962 to Pat Brown for Governor of California, Nixon said we wouldn’t have him to kick around anymore.

Not so.

While he was a lucrative name partner in a New York City law firm, Nixon spent the next six years making himself available at every political dinner, every Republican Party function, and every GOP candidate’s fundraiser, lending his "celebrity" status as a former Vice-President and White House nominee.

This gave him exposure and access to party activists, party donors, and party office-holders.

In 1968, he called in the chits and worked those connections to make his political comeback. Along the way, he downed Michigan Governor George Romney in the presidential primaries — the father of Mitt Romney.

Fast-forward to 2000. John McCain was ousted from the presidential primaries by George W. Bush. But he didn’t just slink away to the comfort zone of the U.S. Senate.

He has spent the following seven years making himself available at every political dinner, every Republican Party function, and every GOP candidate’s fundraiser, lending his "celebrity" status as a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, plus the adoration of the national media.

This gave him exposure and access to party activists, party donors, and party office-holders.

In 2007 and now 2008, he is calling in those chits and working those connections to make his political comeback, after being left for dead in the wake of his amnesty-filled immigration bill last year.

For years, he’s been helping Republican incumbents and contenders in their races for major offices. His endorsers and helpers (most recently Florida Governor Charlie Crist), are the fruit of that effort.  The magnitude of his visits hasn’t been chronicled by the media, but should be.  It seems that wherever two Republicans gathered at a beans and cornbread supper, John McCain was there — so long as high-dollar donors were involved.

Thanks to those years of skipping across the country, McCain now hopes to down the younger Romney just as Nixon downed the elder.

Mitt Romney hasn’t been at this effort as long as John McCain has. For many conservatives, familiarity with John McCain has bred contempt. But for many voters, familiarity has been a decisive factor in a fragmented field — and has given him staying power as that field winnows down.

Written By

Former Congressman Ernest Istook is now a distinguished fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

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