McCain to tout differences with Bush; climate, taxes key to strategy
Sen. John McCain’s campaign says his positions on global warming, spending cuts and the estate tax are its keys to convincing voters that his presidency would not be a continuation of President Bush’s two terms in the White House.
“McCain can’t be ‘Bush Three,’ ” McCain campaign senior adviser Charlie Black said.
“Three big differences McCain has with Bush are spending, climate change and the death tax — we have to work on them and run on them,” he said.
The strategy involves staking out a middle-ground position between Mr. Bush and his two potential Democratic opponents on the tax paid by the estates of the wealthy after they die.
Although Mr. McCain once said he favored complete elimination of the tax, he now calls for a permanent 15 percent tax rate on estates worth more than $10 million.
Under Mr. Bush’s tax-cut packages, the size of exempt estates rises and the rate drops until it hits zero in 2010. But the next year, the tax reverts to the 2002 rate of 50 percent and the threshold drops.
Sen. Barack Obama, Mr. McCain’s likely Democratic opponent in November, has called the estatetax repeal a “trillion-dollar give- away,” and he and other Democrats say it would take money away from educational and other services.
Mr. Black said Democrats’ opposition leaves a middle ground for Mr. McCain.
“In the face of a unified desire by Democrats for a punitive tax, getting a 15 percent rate and a large exemption would be a huge improvement,” Mr. Black said.
He said Mr. McCain also will promise to index the $10 million exemption for inflation.
“The is the first time I’ve heard anything as definitive as this from John McCain on the inheritance tax,” said Club for Growth President Pat Toomey.
The Republican platform calls for its total repeal, but Mr. Black said there would be no effort by the McCain forces to change the plat- form on that score when the Republican National Convention’s Platform Committee meets the week before the party’s Sept. 1-4 national convention in St. Paul, Minn.
On global warming, Mr. McCain has used his support for mandatory curbs on greenhouse-gas emissions as the chief example of how he differs from Mr. Bush.
On the campaign trail, the sena- tor has proposed a “cap-and-trade” system that lets companies buy or trade emissions credits. He said this would let the free-market forces reward an individual or company “that seeks to invent, improve or ac- quire alternatives to carbon-based energy.”
Some critics on the right and left don’t like the idea, but Mr. Black said it is something Mr. McCain believes in and has the added advantage of being a free-market approach that appeals to the center and that was used during the Reagan era to attack the acid-rain problem.
Mr. McCain was an early champion of mandatory caps on greenhouse-gas emissions, including sponsoring the first major piece of legislation to receive a floor vote.
On spending, Mr. McCain has long been known as one of the most outspoken opponents of congressional earmarks — widely derided as pork — and has won plaudits for doing so from many conservative interest groups and voters. Complicity with overspending by Democrats and Republicans in Congress has been a key point of criticism against Mr. Bush.