.C. Gov. Mark Sanford, whose political consultant Jon Lerner has been working full-time these days to secure Sanford a spot on McCain’s shortlist, did not appear among McCain’s top five choices according to the memo, which were Lieberman, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn.
“It won’t be Sanford,” said the McCain advisor, who showed FITSNews maps and excerpts from the memo, but would not provide us with a copy of the document. The advisor also confirmed that U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham offered Sanford a spot on McCain’s shortlist in exchange for his endorsement of the Arizona Senator prior to the South Carolina presidential primary this January. Sanford obviously refused that offer, reportedly telling Graham that he could “get on the shortlist without McCain’s help,” and that the only way he would lend his endorsement prior to the primary (which McCain won without Sanford’s help), was if the No. 2 spot on the ticket was offered.
In addition to addressing the VP speculation, the memo also suggests that McCain abandon the conventional GOP campaign stategy of “securing the right” (i.e. the party’s evangelical base) prior to focusing on independent voters during a general election. Instead, the three-word strategic theme of McCain’s campaign, “Secure the Center,” is a radicial departure from the campaign strategy employed by every Republican candidate since Gerald Ford. The memo also anticipates – and in fact seeks to stoke – the inevitable outcry such a centrist strategy would bring from conservative talking heads like Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh, noting at one point that their “vocal indignation” would actually help attract the more moderate voters McCain is targeting.
Most importantly from a tactical perspective, the memo more than doubles the typical number of states Republicans designate as “battlegrounds,” with 27 states falling into this category compared to the usual 12-14.
Pointing to two electoral maps shaded in colors of red (Republican states), blue (Democratic states) and purple (”swing” states), McCain’s strategist pointed to one map showing typical democratic strongholds in the Northeast and West Coast shaded blue, which he argued would be the electoral math facing Republicans under a conventional ticket using the conventional GOP “Secure the Right” strategy. He then flipped a page of the memo to show how dozens of those states turned purple when presented with a McCain-Lieberman ticket and a “Secure the Center” campaign strategy.