McCain: Despite Polls, He’s “Very Happy Where We Are”

As polls show Rudolph Giuliani widening his lead, Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) on Tuesday said he was “very happy where we are” and noted that he was “dead last” among the presidential field when at this point in the process when he last ran for President.

Speaking outside a $1,000-per-person fund-raiser at the Beverly Hilton, McCain said, “the polls jump around a lot. We are kind of in spring training, as you know. …We are establishing a good political and financial base and that is what we have been looking for for a long time.”

He did lament the compressed schedule of the race, noting that with California and other large states moving their primaries to Feb. 5, “I just don’t think you have the competitive environment.

“It puts increased importance on the first three states, Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, and it doesn’t give the party faithful a real opportunity to examine the candidates.”

The fund-raiser included a smattering of industry figures, including the Walt Disney Co.’s Preston Padden and actress Connie Stevens. It was hosted by McCain’s California Finance Committee. MGM’s Harry Sloan, MGM Mirage’s Terrence Lanni and Univision’s Gerald Perenchio are among McCain’s key industry supporters.

McCain has long had ties to the entertainment industry, as a member of the Senate Commerce Committee and for his appeal as a maverick who can go against the grain.

Among Hollywood moderates, there has been some consternation that McCain is shifting rightward as he tries to appeal to the party’s conservative base. His support for the Iraq War and President Bush’s troop surge has been of particular concern. One lingering question on Tuesday was what reaction he had to Marine Gen. Peter Pace’s comments that homosexual activity was “immoral.”

“I don’t know,” McCain said. “Maybe the first thing is he should be given a chance to explain himself. I think those are personal views. I think the public policy aspect of it is what ought to be addressed, and in my view the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy is successful and should be maintained.”

Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, did not offer an apology, but said that he should have focused more on policy that his personal views when he made them in an interview with the Chicago Tribune. Like McCain, Giuliani sidestepped Pace’s comments, and put off comments about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. “We’re at war and now isn’t the time to question our military’s admissions policy.”

McCain last month said that Roe vs. Wade “should be overturned,” and he explained his position in the context of human rights.

“I have been a strong advocate of human rights throughout my career,” he said. “Whether it be Burma or Vietnam or any other place in the world, and I believe my advocacy for human rights goes to my advocacy for the unborn as well. It is a position I have held for many years.

“I understand that this is a difficult issue,” he continued. I understand that people have very emotional views on it. I thought Roe. vs. Wade was a bad decision. But I also agree with others that we have to change the culture of America. And I think, as with the amendment to the constitution, which I voted against on the status of marriage, which I believe should be decided by the states, I believe this issue should be decided by the states.”

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