Montpelier, VT (CNSNews.com) - Arizona Senator John McCain has returned to two states that favored him in the primary elections, but this time, McCain campaigned for George W Bush in Vermont and for a Bush supporter in New Hampshire.
"I ask all McCain supporters, Republican, Independent and independent minded Democrats, to join us in electing Governor Bush as President of the United States...Now is the time for unity," McCain told a meeting of the Vermont's Republican Convention in the capital city of Montpelier on Saturday.
The senator insisted he and Bush agree on "a lot more things than we disagree on." McCain also insisted Bush would return "integrity and purpose" to the White House, after eight years of Clinton-Gore.
McCain solidly won Vermont's presidential primary with 60 percent of the vote, giving him the state's 12 delegates and 12 alternates to the Republican National Convention.
However, Vermont state party rules do not mandate that those who supported McCain in the primary be chosen as delegates to the convention. In the end, Bush supporters walked away with nine of the 12 delegate spots, while McCain realized only three.
Republican Party Chairman Patrick Garahan, who backed Bush in the primary, said of the vote, "If I were a McCain supporter, I'd be disappointed."
Despite his loss of delegates on Saturday, McCain continued to call for party unity. "That's the strength of our party...healthy debate, shared principles, shared ideals, shared goals. The party of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan adhere to those principles."
McCain has fought hard to keep the delegates he won in seven primaries, primarily as a way of having some clout at this summer's national convention.
While campaigning in New Hampshire on Saturday, McCain hardly mentioned Bush at all.
He was in the Granite State to campaign for New Hampshire GOP Congressman Charlie Bass, one of Bush's early supporters.
"I think it's a logical question to ask, 'Why are you campaigning for Charlie Bass, when he endorsed Governor Bush? I think the answer is obvious. If I only campaigned for people who endorsed me in my campaign, my activities would be severely restricted," McCain said.
Bass is a cosponsor of the Shays-Meehan Bill, a campaign finance reform measure that McCain also supports.
The visit marked McCain's second to the New Hampshire in a week. Last week, he received an honorary degree from Daniel Webster College in Nashua, where he also delivered the commencement address.
Some political observers believe McCain's recent high-profile trips, including one to Vietnam, are part of his effort to lay the foundation for another White House bid in 2004, should Texas Governor George W. Bush lose to Vice President Al Gore this year.
However, McCain told reporters Saturday, "I have no contemplation of another presidential campaign."
Democrats have targeted Bass as a three-term incumbent who can be defeated in November and they have promised his eventual opponent the funds needed to wage a strong campaign.
Bass's congressional district includes the town of Hanover and the cities of Concord and Lebanon, places where McCain did extremely well in the state's first-in-the nation primary among Republicans, Independents, and even Democrats.
Some of the focus of this weekend's New Hampshire visit was not McCain's endorsement of Bass, but his recent letter to supporters, urging them to replace the current Republican National Committeeman and Committeewoman, Tom Rath and Ruth Griffin, with two of his supporters.
Local Republicans are very concerned about the impact a change may have on the Republican National Committee's decision to retain the state's first-in-the-nation primary status.
Chairman Steve Duprey insists the decision will be made, in part, on the personal relationships Rath and Griffin have established with other members of the Republican National Committee over their years of service. Rath and Griffin were Bush supporters during the primary.
See Earlier Story:
McCain Seeks Shakeup in NH Republican Hierarchy (5/19/00)