WASHINGTON — Although he once considered Sen. John McCain a possible candidate to switch parties, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said Sunday the Republican presidential candidate instead has become a disappointing "clone of George Bush."
Appearing on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," Reid criticized McCain, saying that he was a "flawed" candidate and that "everybody knows that he has a real unusual temper."
As for the Democrats, Reid said that the nomination contest between Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama should be allowed to continue until the primaries are completed next month despite increasing pressure on Clinton to withdraw.
"I think we have to play this out," said Reid, who is a superdelegate but not committed to either candidate.
On McCain, Reid said in questioning by Stephanopoulos that the Arizona senator was viewed differently in 2001 when Democrats were searching for a Republican who might switch parties and shift control of the 50-50 Senate to the Democrats.
McCain, with Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Olympia Snowe of Maine and James Jeffords of Vermont were considered, Reid wrote in his new book, "The Good Fight." Reid helped persuade Jeffords to leave the Republicans and become an independent.
But, Reid told Stephanopoulos, "John McCain was a different John McCain in those days than he is now. Those were the days before he wrapped his arms around George Bush."
"In those days he did a few independent things," Reid said.
"He did not vote with (Republicans) on the ridiculous things they’ve done on tax policies. He did not walk in lockstep with Karl Rove and the White House. He is a different person now than he was then.
"The main thing is, he is wrong on the war, he is wrong on the economy," Reid said. "He is a clone of George Bush."
Appearing later on the show, Carly Fiorina, the former chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard and a surrogate for the McCain campaign, told Stephanopoulos that McCain will not carry on "a third Bush term."
"Nothing could be further from the truth," Fiorina said.
"It was John McCain, after all, who spoke loudly for four long years saying that Don Rumsfeld was the worst secretary of defense in history, that the prosecution of the war in Iraq was going badly and that we needed a new strategy, and we are now executing a new strategy because of John McCain," Fiorina said.
Reid said it would not be unusual for Democrats to declare a winning candidate in June.
"We should just relax because Bill Clinton didn’t get the (1992 Democratic presidential nomination) until June 2," Reid said, noting the final upcoming party primaries will be held June 3, in Montana and South Dakota.
Reid said he could "certainly support" a Democratic ticket that features Obama as the presidential nominee and Clinton as the vice presidential nominee, but the Nevadan said that is a decision only they can make.
Reid said he does not think the fiercely contested race for the party’s presidential nomination will hurt Democrats in November.
"I believe it has been great for the country," Reid said
Reid said Democratic voter registration in Nevada is "tens of thousands" higher than Republicans because of the party’s Jan. 19 caucuses.
Reid also dismissed controversy stemming from Hillary Clinton saying last week that Obama is weak in attracting the support of white voters.
"I am confident that she meant nothing. … I think it was taken wrong. The Clintons have a really good record with all ethnic groups," Reid said,
Also, Reid said Obama will not make the same mistake of Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the 2004 presidential nominee, and fail to campaign in rural America.
Although Clinton won the popular vote in Nevada’s Democratic caucuses, Obama gained more delegates.
"Why? Because he ran so well in rural Nevada counties where there are no ethnic minorities at all," Reid said. "So Obama is going to do just fine in rural America just like he did in rural Nevada."
Contact reporter Tony Batt at tbatt @stephensmedia.com or (202) 783-1760.