A prominent GOP strategist said on Monday that John McCain handled his role in the bailout process poorly and would ultimately be hurt politically by the failure of the House of Representatives to pass the measure.
"To a certain extent, I think John gets hurt by this," said Ed Rollins, a CNN contributor who worked on former Gov. Mike Huckabee's primary campaign earlier this cycle. "He obviously, at the end of the day, said he was for it. But more important than that, he said he was the one who would bring them to the table and to a certain extent he will be viewed now as not being able to do that."
Rollins added, "McCain is our nominee and [congressional Republicans] will do everything they can to help him, but they are not going to go over the cliff for him. They did that for Bush, and they thought that this measure was just too dramatic for their constituencies."
The GOP strategist spoke to the Huffington Post just an hour after the House failed to pass the $250 billion bailout package by a margin of 205 to 228. Republicans in that body were quick to cast blame on Speaker Nancy Pelosi for giving a "partisan" speech earlier on Monday -- a doubtful assertion given the benign text of Pelosi's remarks. When it came to McCain's leadership qualities, however, Rollins argued that the last week has left much to be desired.
"I think the reality is, he made a big show coming in and at the end of the day it really wasn't realistic for him," he said.
McCain has, indeed, made several obvious missteps since the bailout became the central campaign issue. Calling for the firing of SEC Chairman Chris Cox, Rollins noted, did little to endear McCain to conservatives in the House, many of whom hold Cox in higher regard than the Arizona Senator. Perhaps more embarrassing were the claims made by Sen. McCain's aides the past two days taking credit for forging the bipartisan compromise that never came to fruition.
"I've never been afraid of stepping in to solve problems for the American people, and I'm not going to stop now," McCain told a rally in Columbus, Ohio, just hours before the bailout was defeated on the House floor. "Senator Obama took a very different approach to the crisis our country faced. At first he didn't want to get involved. Then he was monitoring the situation."
Rollins, who earlier in the week claimed that House Republican opposition to the bailout was driven by party as much as country, sought to revise his statement in an interview with the Huffington Post. Arguing instead that members who opposed the plan did so on the basis of a philosophical commitment to not save Wall Street from its excesses, he found many to blame for the current impasse, including the Bush administration and Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, Democratic leadership, and McCain.
"Bush is finished as far as the House Republicans are concerned," said Rollins.