McCain raises money in Giuliani's turf

January 22, 2008 6:37:52 PM PST
Republican presidential hopeful John McCain raised money Tuesday on rival Rudy Giuliani's turf and picked up the endorsement of the former New York mayor's longtime nemesis.

Former New York Sen. Alfonse D'Amato switched his allegiance in the presidential race from Fred Thompson, who abandoned his bid Tuesday, to McCain. D'Amato has long been at odds with Giuliani.

"If you want to win in November, John McCain is the man," said D'Amato, calling the senator a national treasure and a true hero. "This is a man whose time is here, who can restore confidence and people can have confidence in what he says."

Recent polls showed McCain leading or tied with Giuliani in New York, which votes in two weeks and has a 101-delegate prize. Giuliani once had an enormous advantage but has seen his standing erode in New York and nationally as he lost six straight primary contests.

Like McCain, Giuliani left Florida on Tuesday to raise money in New York at a private fundraiser. He has pinned his candidacy on winning Florida's contest next Tuesday but now finds himself threatened on his home turf.

McCain, for his part, seized on a debate Monday night in which Democratic candidates talked about him as if he were the GOP nominee.

"It's pretty clear that they view me as their most formidable opponent, and I agree with them," McCain said. "It's obvious that I'm the one that they're most concerned about."

Asked earlier in the day if he were going to New York to make a statement about the state, McCain referenced a prolific U.S. bank robber and told reporters: "No. It's the Willie Sutton syndrome. When they asked him why he robbed banks and he said it's because that's where the money is."

Aides say McCain has enough money to stay on TV in Florida with heavy levels of ads for the next week, and is trying to fill his bank account for the expensive de facto national primary day on Feb. 5, when some two dozen states vote.

McCain started the day with rallies at Pensacola Junior College and Fort Walton Beach in the Florida panhandle that is home to military installations and a large number of veterans.

Courting them, McCain campaigned with Col. Bud Day, a fellow Vietnam prisoner of war, and Sen. John Warner of Virginia, a former Navy secretary, and a number of other veterans.

At both, McCain's wife, Cindy, introduced him and noted that their family has experienced big changes over the past year with their two sons' chosen paths. "One decided to join the Navy and the other decided to join the Marine Corps," she said, drawing cheers. "I want my sons back like everybody else but I want them back having done their duty, and with honor and in dignity and most of all in victory."

Taking the microphone, McCain stood before giant U.S. flags and opened his remarks at both venues thanking veterans and promising to fix the veterans health care system "so that you're not treated as a second-class citizen."

"You and I know that our veterans health care is not what it should be," he said and then whipped out a card from his suit jacket with a quote from George Washington and read it aloud to his audiences.

"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional as to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their country," McCain quoted. "George Washington was right in 1789, and he is right today."