In The Hill today, an article detailing the maneuvers in the Senate in early 2001 right before Jim Jeffords switched sides. The Democrats sought a Republican to cross the aisle and targeted Jeffords and Lincoln Chafee (R/D-R.I.). Allegedly one of McCain's advisors, John Weaver, asked a Democratic operative why the Dems were not in discussions with McCain. Democrat leader Tom Daschle then began recruiting McCain.
[Weaver] said McCain was invited to a meeting in Kennedy’s office with several other Democratic senators but “didn’t know what the meeting was for” and left soon thereafter. Weaver added that Edwards approached McCain on the Senate floor to discuss the matter.
Daschle, however, said the talks went much further, claiming that there were times that he and Democratic leaders thought McCain “might be our best opportunity.” Daschle stressed that McCain never considered becoming a Democrat, but was close to becoming an Independent.
[Tom] Downey [Democrat lobbyist] said, “I actually thought during the initial stages of this that [McCain leaving the Republican Party] was almost a certain deal.”
Weaver, who changed his party affiliation to “Democrat” several years ago, said he respects Daschle and Downey, but added, “They’re partisan Democrats and we’re in the political season.”
Told of Weaver’s version of what happened, Daschle said, “Obviously, our recollection of what transpired is somewhat different.”
McCain was thisclose to performing the Jeffords flip -- from GOP to Independent voting with the Democrats. This will not help McCain in his efforts to win the GOP nomination for 2008.
Of course the immediate cloak-and-dagger theory is that the Democrats have come forward with this story to douse McCain's campaign. But that notion is illogical -- McCain is the "maverick" who works with Democrats in the Senate and House constantly to reach his legislative goals, therefore he would be the most likely GOP president to approve certain Democrat policies while in office. And McCain's campaign is not leading the GOP nomination process at this point either, therefore harming it intentionally makes little sense from a Democrat perspective.