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McCain seeks help via voting rules change

Senator John McCain's campaign is quietly trying to change the rules for the California Republican Primary to allow independents to vote. Current law requires primary voters to be registered Republicans. Ralph Z. Hallow of the Washington Times reports:

Sen. John McCain's campaign is mounting a stealth effort to change Republican presidential nomination rules in California to allow independents to vote in the Feb. 5 primary, party and campaign officials in the state have told The Washington Times.

The impact could be huge -- and potentially damaging to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, currently the most acceptable to traditional-values voters among the three top-tier Republican presidential candidates.

"If California changes its delegate selection rules to allow independent voters to participate in the Republican primary, it would be very helpful for McCain and for Rudy Giuliani, who historically have done very well among independent voters," Federal Election Commissioner Michael E. Toner said.

An official with the Romney organization in California said McCain supporter Duff Sundheim, the former state Republican Party chairman and an ally of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, has been trying to line up votes for the rules change.

Several other state officials and campaign operatives independently reported receiving phone calls from Mr. Sundheim seeking support for the change.

Mr. Sundheim late last night denied that he is affiliated with or backing Mr. McCain but refused to answer when asked whether he was lining up support for a rules change. He did admit he was having discussions with state party Chairman Ron Nehring.

Read it all at the link above. Giuliani's people are using the same "it's a state issue" stock answer, so they may be involved as well. It is certainly more crucial for McCain, who has seen his support among the Republican base, limited from the start due to his frequent apostasies, slipping steadily away.

Without independents and crossover Democratic voters, McCain wouldn't have made any real noise in 2000, either.

Hat-tip to Captain Ed for pointing to the story. Ed adds:

This rule change would be more significant than most, however, and it reflects oddly on the McCain campaign. They have made an effort to cast McCain as the true conservative, with some justification, in a race between the Senator and Giuliani and Romney. McCain has had more consistency on abortion, guns, and government spending than either of his two opponents. That would argue for a closed primary, especially in California, where an open primary would dilute the conservative vote in the primaries.

* * * * *

It's hard to see where McCain wins anything with this effort. If he wants to champion conservatism, one would expect him to keep or even strengthen its influence in the primaries. Then again, one would expect McCain to have met with conservatives at CPAC, too. The campaign seems a bit rudderless at the moment.

Read the whole thing at the preceding link. One more sign of the McCain campaign taking on water.

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