Why Is McCain’s Former Campaign Chair Stumping for Obama?

Yesterday brought the news that Mark McKinnon–one of McCain’s key campaign advisors–fulfilled his promise to step down rather than work against Barack Obama.

Mark McKinnon said last year that he would leave McCain’s campaign after the primary season if the Arizona senator were to run against Obama.


In a 2007 interview with Cox News, McKinnon said he would vote for McCain, but "I just don’t want to work against an Obama candidacy." He added that if Obama were to reach the White House, it "would send a great message to the country and the world."

Part of McKinnon’s unease with running against Obama, incidentally, is that he didn’t want to run negative against Obama. So I guess we can look forward to lots more smear campaigning from the Republican side, now that McKinnon has stepped down.

More interesting than McKinnon, though, is reality-based Republican Chuck Hagel’s apparent support for Obama.

The Republican Senator from Nebraska was a political thorn in McCain’s side on Tuesday night, repeatedly lavishing praise on the presumptive Democratic candidate and levying major foreign policy criticisms at the GOP nominee and the Republican Party as a whole. At one point, Hagel even urged the Arizona Republican to elevate his campaign discourse to a higher, more honest level.


Much of Hagel’s address, hosted by the Ploughshares Fund, was spent weaving between Obama praise and McCain quips. He urged the media, for example, to focus on important policy issues an "not just why Barack [doesn’t] wear flag pins on his lapel."

Asked whether he would be open to serving as Secretary of Defense in a hypothetical Obama administration, Hagel demurred. But in the process, he praised the Illinois Democrat for being open to a bipartisan cabinet.

You see, Chuck Hagel is not just any reality-based Republican. Chuck Hagel was the Co-Chair of McCain’s 2000 Presidential campaign.

Now, there are several conclusions one might draw from Hagel’s apparent endorsement of Obama over his former candidate. Perhaps Hagel is fickle or a flip-flopper. Perhaps Barack Obama is so charismatic, he has been able to woo Hagel over just a few years in the Senate, in spite of Hagel and McCain’s lifelong friendship and shared background as Vietnam Vets. 

Or perhaps McCain is not the man he was in 2000.