After 2000, McCain Learned to Work Levers of PowerBreaking News
Mr. Lott had quashed Mr. McCain’s most cherished legislative goals. And, worse, Mr. McCain believed that in the 2000 Republican primaries, Mr. Lott had spread rumors about his colleague’s mental stability on behalf of his rival for the nomination, George W. Bush.
But when Mr. Bush turned on Mr. Lott in 2002, helping to push him out of the leadership over a racially insensitive remark, Mr. McCain saw a shared grievance and found an opportunity. He leapt to Mr. Lott’s defense, urging Republicans to stick by him.
“He said, ‘I know how you are feeling; you have been treated unfairly,’ ” Mr. Lott recalled. “I am a grateful guy, and I will never forget it.” A legendary dealmaker with a deep store of chits, Mr. Lott became a valuable ally to his former foe, backing him in public debates and less visible Senate intrigues.