The Note: Obama, McCain Could be Valuable Allies

By Hope Ditto

Nov 17, 2008 8:24am

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports in Monday’s Note:

Questions worth pondering while you’re thinking about the prospect of a Palin-free week:

1. Who will play a bigger role in filling out President-elect Barack Obama’s Cabinet — Joe Biden, Bill Clinton, or Doris Kearns Goodwin

2. Will the Republican Party have to blow itself up to put itself back together? (Which of those directions does Mike Huckabee’s new book take the party?) 

3. Will the president-elect spend more political capital getting a playoff system for college football than he will pushing a bailout package to help save Detroit? (And will he spend this much time in the gym when he’s in the White House?) 

4. What does it say about the most open and transparent transition in history that Obama meets in super-secrecy with Democrats, while press releases are sent out for meetings with Republicans?

5. Who’s the more powerful Republican this week — John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, or John McCain?

The rival reclamation tour continues Monday in Chicago, with Obama set to meet at noon ET with that other individual who almost stopped him from becoming president: McCain.

McCain is at heart a dealmaker, and his return to the Senate as part of a diminished GOP caucus enhances his opportunities to cut them. Just like he’d have to if he’d won, McCain will be forced to work with Democrats — and, of course, there’s one Democrat in particular whose cooperation is vital if McCain wants to remain a potent force.

Read the rest of The Note — and get all the latest on the 2008 election, Congress, the White House and the wide world of politics every day — from Rick Klein by bookmarking this link.

McCain, R-Ariz., has no more friends in the Senate (in either party) than he did before he ran. And the Senate remains the place where some of the bolder Obama ideas may go to die.

But McCain won’t be speaking for leadership in the new Congress. Even more than after his 2000 run, he is one of a handful of senators whose celebrity brings power that can’t be measured by chairmanships or seniority (Hillary Clinton is another). When an Obama measure — any measure — is sent to Congress, who do you think will be the first lawmaker reporters seek out for reaction?

“Both have much to gain from swift reconciliation after a bitter contest,” The Wall Street Journal’s Jonathan Weisman and Laura Meckler write. “Mr. Obama’s pledge to move beyond the partisan bickering requires Republican partners. Sen. McCain would be a potent symbol — and one with a long history of working with Democrats on key issues on the president-elect’s agenda: climate change, energy efficiency and national service. . . . Obama aides stress the opportunity the president-elect is offering Sen. McCain.”

The Palin mania that’s enveloped the past week has mostly enhanced McCain by not focusing on his missteps (other than, possibly, his selection of Sarah Palin).

So the Arizona senator returns to the Hill with the potential to be more of a power source than ever — the one man whose reaction to an Obama proposal could immediately set the tone for debate.

“Sources close to McCain say their man wants to leave the campaign behind and return to the role he forged for himself on Capitol Hill as the leading reformer and bi-partisan legislator in the Senate,” Time’s James Carney writes. “By meeting with McCain so shortly after the election, Obama is demonstrating both magnanimity and self-confidence. But his move is also based on self-interest. Obama is keenly aware of the fact that, despite increased Democratic majorities in both the Senate and the House, he cannot enact the kind of sweeping legislative overhaul he envisions without the help of Republicans.”

With two years left on his term — why wouldn’t he want to be a player? And the choice of wingmen for Monday’s meeting — new White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel for Obama, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. — for McCain — says that both men are serious about a potential partnership.

Continue reading today’s Note by clicking HERE.

ABC News’ Hope Ditto contributed to this report.

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