McCain Endorsement Signals Importance of the Valley

May 29, 2009 7:28:31 PM PDT
Senator John McCain came to the Valley Friday to endorse a Republican candidate for governor and, he hopes, to shape the future of the Republican Party.Sen. McCain endorsed former eBay CEO Meg Whitman and he did it in two places: Orange County, which is known as a hotbed for conservative politics, and Fresno, which is fast becoming a center of attention in statewide politics.

The big guns are already coming out in the race to become California's next governor, more than a year away from primaries.

Sen. McCain's endorsement for Whitman comes six months after she co-chaired his losing presidential campaign. "I see her not only as a leader in the Republican party, but an inspiration to young women everywhere," he said Friday.

The endorsement is significant, because even though McCain got crushed in November, he still holds sway with a lot of important voter blocks, like veterans.

"Yes he lost, but I think he still has a positive image," said ABC-30 political analyst Tony Capozzi. "I think he lends a lot of credibility to Meg Whitman and her campaign."

While McCain's Valley visit boosts Whitman's campaign, it also reflects a trend in statewide politics. Strategists say the road to Sacramento clearly leads through the Central Valley now, so we've seen Democrat Gavin Newsom and Republican Steve Poizner make stops over the last two months.

Whitman has visited the Valley six times this year alone and she chose it as one of two places to campaign with McCain. "We could've taken John anywhere," she said. "My campaign and I chose Orange County and Fresno."

McCain pledged to keep campaigning for Whitman, which he said could mean more visits to the Valley. And Whitman has already boned up on Valley issues, earning an endorsement from former Fresno mayor Alan Autry, and promising to help farmers fighting for water ... "We've lost 43,000 jobs in the Central Valley in just the last three months," she said. "So I would pump more water out to the Delta. I would use emergency powers."

We asked Sen. McCain if he saw Whitman as the future face of the Republican Party and he said "yes." He also mentioned three current governors as the next generation of leaders. Noticeably absent from that list was his former running mate, Sarah Palin.

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