President Bush has endorsed John McCain. The announcement comes a day after the Arizona senator clinched the Repubican presidential nomination by getting the required number of delegates. Bush’s nod is recognition that McCain is the party’s choice.
“I’ve campaigned against him and I’ve campaigned with him,” Bush said. Later, Bush said, “He’s going to be the president.”
Bush had formally welcomed McCain and his wife, Cindy, at the North Portico of the White House. He hosted a lunch in his private dining room.
McCain was visiting Republican National Committee headquarters later in the day.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s not good to keep President Bush waiting. But John McCain did on Wednesday.
Bush joked with reporters and laughed and turned left and right as he waited for the Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting to show up at the White House for a promised endorsement.
McCain finally showed up and the two men went inside for lunch. “He’s going to win,” Bush said. He shook hands with McCain and kissed his wife, Cindy, on the cheek.
McCain was getting a formal welcome at the North Portico, followed by lunch in Bush’s private dining room and an endorsement in the Rose Garden.
In recent weeks, Bush has gone out of his way to defend the senator’s conservative credentials, saying criticism of the Arizona senator has been grossly unfair. The two were bitter rivals in 2000.
“The president has said he looks forward to vigorously campaigning for the GOP and tonight it has become clear that the GOP nominee will be Sen. John McCain,” White House press secretary Dana Perino said Tuesday night. “Of course the president is going to endorse the GOP nominee, which is going to be Senator John McCain.”
Bush made morning phone calls to McCain’s former rivals Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson to congratulate them on their primary campaigns. He intends to call Rudy Giuliani later.
“He said he appreciated their ability to keep their sense of humor and that he looks forward to working them in the ’08 election,” Perino said.
Asked about McCain’s past disagreements with Bush, she said: “The point of these elections is for the candidate to run as their own person. Elections are about change and going forward, and one of the most attractive things about Senator McCain to the Republican Party is that he has been his own person. He has blazed his own trail and he will have to make the case as to why voters should vote for him.”