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Published November 05, 2012, 02:35 PM

Mixed opinions on outcome of Sen. McCain's presence on campaign trails last week

Was it a smart move for Republican Senate candidates in farm and ranch states to bring Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to help them campaign in the final days before the election? Or will it be a reminder that McCain opposes the farm bill, the sugar program and the Renewable Fuel Standard?

By: Jerry Hagstrom, Agweek

BISMARCK, N.D. — Was it a smart move for Republican Senate candidates in farm and ranch states to bring Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to help them campaign in the final days before the election? Or will it be a reminder that McCain opposes the farm bill, the sugar program and the Renewable Fuel Standard?

McCain came to North Dakota last week to campaign for Republican Rep. Rick Berg, who is running for the Senate seat held by Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., who is not running for re-election. He also campaigned last week in Montana for Republican Senate candidate, Rep. Dennis Rehberg, who is trying to unseat Democratic Sen. Jon Tester and in Nebraska for Republican Senate candidate Deb Fischer, who is running against former Sen. Bob Kerrey for the open seat being vacated by Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson.

Berg’s opponent, Democratic candidate Heidi Heitkamp, believes McCain’s presence only reminded voters that he has opposed farm programs and that the House Republican leadership has refused to bring up the farm bill this year.

Most analysts rate the Berg-Heitkamp race a toss-up.

At a get-out-the-vote rally here on Friday, Heitkamp said Berg invited McCain to the state to try to come up with an event to match former President Bill Clinton’s trip to Fargo last Monday to campaign for her. Clinton stressed Heitkamp’s independence, noting that as North Dakota attorney general she sued his administration and won.

Heitkamp’s campaign also released video of a McCain speech in which he called the sugar program a “masterful scam.”

Heitkamp’s campaign manager said in a statement, “Congressman Berg first claimed to support the farm bill, but then voted the party line to slash $180 billion from farm programs, which led to historic uncertainty for our farmers when the farm bill expired.

“For Congressman Berg to now campaign with someone in North Dakota who opposed the farm bill and called it a ‘masterful scam’ shows that he is more interested in doing what his Washington leaders tell him than standing up for North Dakota,” the campaign manager said.

The Billings Gazette, also reported last Thursday that on his way to Billings, McCain posted to his Twitter account that “Farm bill sugar subsidies force consumers to pay more for treats — $3.5 billion a year.” The Gazette noted that the tweet was reposted by 57 followers of McCain, including lobbyists and House lawmakers. Both North Dakota and Montana are key sugar beet growing areas.

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