It was in Portsmouth, Ohio, the other day when a supporter neatly summed up the obstacle lying between John McCain and the White House. "When," the young man implored, "are you going to go out and say, 'Read my lips. I am not the third term of Bush'?"
In a business of bitter rivalries and awkward alliances, few political relationships have been more bitter, awkward or downright tortured than John McCain's eight-year entanglement with George W. Bush. After their nasty 2000 battle for the G.O.P. nomination, McCain's differences with Bush were so numerous and so deep that in 2001 he discussed with top Democratic leaders quitting the Republican Party. Three years later, McCain remained so estranged from the White House that John Kerry begged him to run with him on the Democratic ticket against Bush. Even though their rapprochement in 2004 drained some of the bile from their relationship, the two men have never been friends. At best, theirs is a partnership sustained by the benefits each has conferred on the other and a grudging admiration each has for the other's toughness.