Can a straight-talking Republican Senator, a decorated war hero at odds with the GOP establishment, win his party’s nomination for president? Richard North Patterson insists that the similarities between the hero of his latest novel and John McCain ‘end with his military career and penchant for candor’. There are, nevertheless, numerous other parallels between McCain and Senator Corey Grace. Grace is, after all, a fiscal conservative who opposes abortion but favours stem-cell research, supports campaign finance reform, and favours an amnesty for illegal immigrants. Like McCain, he is also prone to impetuous behaviour, which his enemies exploit to spread rumours that his period in enemy captivity made him unstable. Grace also has to withstand dirty tricks in a South Carolina primary.
There are, however, some notable differences between Grace and McCain. Grace is not only considerably younger, and from the swing state of Ohio, but also possesses a rueful self-awareness, verging on introspection and self-criticism. When Grace loses his temper, it is not (as McCain once did) to call a fellow senator a ‘f***ing jerk’, but to save a demonstrator from being beaten to death. He is also (even) more liberal than McCain, when he opposes the Iraq war, and supports gun control. Grace is also saddled with agnosticism and being a divorced bachelor. He dates an actress who is not just African-American, but also a lobbyist for stem-cell research.
In reality, a Republican politician with as much baggage as this would be unlikely even to run, let alone win a sufficient number of primaries to force a brokered convention. The idea that he could do so against a clear establishment favourite requires an even greater suspension of disbelief. Indeed, the only reason McCain appears set to win the nomination is the absence of such a favourite — whether Jeb Bush or Bill Owens — from this year’s race.