McCain Rides Momentum onto NY Primary Ballot

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:25 PM EDT

( - The news keeps getting better for Republican presidential hopeful Senator John McCain of Arizona: Fresh off his win in New Hampshire, pulling even or ahead of George W Bush in recent South Carolina polls, raising more money faster than he ever has before - he now learns that the Republican "establishment" will let his name appear on the New York primary ballot after all.

"Pataki Gives In," said the headline in today's New York Times, describing the sudden about-face by New York Republicans who historically have been highly involved in deciding who gets on the ballot.

According to reports, George W. Bush and New York's Republican Gov. George Pataki - Bush's biggest supporter in the state - have backed off their insistence that McCain meet the technical rules for getting his name on the March 7 New York primary ballot.

In a statement, Gov. Pataki said the New York campaign "should be about ideas and issues, not about technicalities."

Governors Pataki and Bush reportedly sensed that the fight over the New York primary ballot was giving McCain good political traction in South Carolina and other states - allowing him to portray himself as an outsider crusading against a corrupt political system. By allowing him to appear on the ballot, the controversy goes away, perhaps minimizing the potential backlash against the Bush campaign.

"I'm pleased they would let us on the ballot," McCain said in a television interview Friday morning. "Obviously we've got to continue with our [lawsuit] so the machine can never do it to another candidate again. I was a viable candidate, they were trying to keep me off, and we were in court and we ... are going to win that suit." McCain said he thinks he's going to win the New York primary, too.

In that same NBC Today show interview Friday morning, McCain harped once again on his "message of reform -- reform the government, get the special interests out of Washington, give the government back to the people." He said the message is working.

McCain concedes the attacks against him will grow stronger, but he's going to "stay on message."

Then NBC Today show anchor Matt Lauer asked McCain this question: "You're going to have to face much of the Republican establishment, let's face it, they're going to line up against you in South Carolina and try to derail your campaign before you gain any more momentum. How do you combat that?"

McCain pointed to his good organization in South Carolina and noted that the "establishment" lined up against him in New Hampshire, too: "People don't vote on endorsements in high-visibility campaigns," he said. "They vote on the message and I couldn't be happier. I relish the fight ... We obviously interfered with the coronation."

"I'm taking on the establishment," McCain continued. "I'm trying to break the iron triangle of money, lobbyists, and legislation. I am a direct threat to them. I can understand why they would be in opposition to me breaking up this terrible situation in Washington which is taking the government out of the hands of the American people and putting it into the hands of the special interests.

"There are 22,000 lobbyists who spent $1.4 billion dollars last year lobbying. We've got to stop that and give the government back," said McCain.

But some of McCain's strongest supporters work as lobbyists.

Since Tuesday night, McCain said he has received over a million dollars in donations made over the Internet. He laughed and quickly mentioned the Website where people can make additional donations. He called it a "grassroots insurgency campaign."

And it's doing well, according to a new Zogby International survey.

The survey of 517 likely Republican South Carolina primary voters taken on February 2nd showed McCain ahead of Texas Governor George W Bush 44-39 percent. The three other Republican presidential hopefuls barely registered with voters.

More than eight of ten survey respondents said they had favorable view of McCain (84.9 percent) while only 9 percent had an unfavorable view. A similar number, 84.3 percent, had a favorable view of Bush with only 12.9 percent unfavorable.

"This is the power of New Hampshire," said pollster John Zogby, "that one day after McCain's convincing victory (in that state), he has pulled into a small lead in a state (South Carolina) earmarked for Bush.

"McCain polls well among Conservatives and Born-Agains (Christians). That gives him the edge as he crushes Bush among Moderates and Independents. He holds small leads among both men and women," Zogby added.

South Carolina's Republican primary takes place on February 19.