Senator John McCain’s campaign advisers will ask the White House to deploy President Bush for major Republican fund-raising, but they do not want the president to appear too often at his side, top aides to Mr. McCain said Sunday.
After a weekend of strategy meetings at Mr. McCain’s Arizona ranch — in a sense, the first Sedona summit of the Republican Party’s new leadership — the advisers said that much remains undecided about coordinating the campaign with the White House and the party apparatus until Mr. McCain wins enough delegates to be the official nominee.
But even as the consensus was that Mr. McCain needed to “stand in the sun” on his own, as one adviser put it, without the large shadow cast by Mr. Bush, left unsaid was the difficult calculus the McCain campaign faces: Using Mr. Bush enough to try to make the tough sell of Mr. McCain to conservatives but not so much that he will drive away the independents and some moderate Democrats that Mr. McCain is counting on in November.
Democrats, meanwhile, have been using every opportunity to link Mr. McCain to Mr. Bush, even defining Mr. McCain’s candidacy as part of a “Bush-McCain” ticket that they say will essentially give the president another term.
There is also the matter of Mr. Bush’s unpopularity — polls show that only about 30 percent of voters approve of the job he is doing as president.
And though he remains relatively popular among Republicans, even there his approval rating has declined to 66 percent.
Mr. McCain’s advisers rushed to insist that they were not running away from the president, but rather that they would be reluctant to have any sitting president campaign with Mr. McCain.
Cue The Police: