Sen. John McCain never asked then-President George W. Bush to campaign for him in 2008, though Bush thinks he could have helped the Arizona senator.
In his forthcoming memoir, “Decision Points,” Bush explores his “complex relationship” with McCain.
“I understood he had to establish his independence,” Bush wrote. “I thought it looked defensive for John to distance himself from me. I was confident I could have helped him make his case. But the decision was his. I was disappointed I couldn’t do more to help him.”
The 43rd president suggests his opponent for the Republican nomination in 2000 blew an opportunity to capitalize politically on the financial crisis eight years later. Without saying it explicitly, Bush portrays then-Sen. Barack Obama as more presidential than McCain in his handling of the financial crisis.
Bush’s approval rating bottomed out at 25 percent the week before the 2008 election. While he left office as one of the most unpopular presidents ever, Bush remained relatively popular with some elements of the GOP’s conservative base. It was partly a need to shore up this right flank that pushed McCain toward elevating Sarah Palin from obscure Alaska governor to his running mate.
After Lehman Bros. filed for bankruptcy in September 2008, with the global economy on the verge of a meltdown, Bush thought McCain could turn the rotten economy to his advantage.