McCain's memoir gives him last word, not a victory

September 17, 1999|By Jack W. Germond and Jules Witcover

WASHINGTON -- John McCain is trying to campaign for book sales and the Republican presidential nomination simultaneously. He keeps turning up on television signing copies of his new memoir, "Faith of My Fathers."

The book probably won't help as much as the Arizona GOP senator might hope. Even a best seller doesn't reach many of those who will cast ballots in the New Hampshire primary in February.

Books abound

Mr. McCain is not the only competitor for the Republican nomination with a new book out. Pat Buchanan, Dan Quayle and Steve Forbes also have books in circulation and others may be on the way. But these largely explore policy proposals of the candidates (maybe with a little biography thrown in), not unvarnished personal stories. And no one expects them to have any significant effect on the campaign. The same probably will be the case with Mr. McCain's memoir. Even so, he has given those Republicans attracted by his blunt personal style an explanation of how he got that way.

The central question in the Republican campaign now is whether any of the eight others chasing Texas Gov. George W. Bush has any realistic chance of catching him. Mr. Bush is running 30 percentage points or more ahead of his closest competitors in opinion polls. And he has outdistanced the field in terms of endorsements and campaign money.

But there are still more than four months before the first caucuses and primaries, ample time for the campaign to be altered radically by new developments. What we know from the McCain memoir is that if Mr. Bush stumbles, there is at least one rival tempered by an extraordinary life.

Jack W. Germond and Jules Witcover write from the Washington Bureau.

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