WASHINGTON – Alabama GOP Sen. Richard Shelby said Friday he will support John McCain for president now that it appears McCain will be the Republican nominee.
“I think we need to support the nominee. I certainly will,” said Shelby, who did not dispute during an interview that he’s had his run-ins over the years with the Arizona senator.
But Shelby said, “The sooner we get behind him, get past our grievances with each other … I think it will strengthen his hand in November.”
Shelby had previously said he would not endorse until it became clear who the party’s nominee would be.
Today, he became the latest in a line of Republicans who have had confrontations with McCain forced to reassess their views now that he’s likely to become the party standard-bearer.
There was no immediate response from the McCain campaign.
Shelby said he admires McCain’s courage and tenacity, calling those “admirable qualities.”
“Everybody has had a few dust-ups with Sen. McCain – but not just Sen. McCain,” explained Shelby. In the Senate, “there are 100 of us.”
Still, one such “dust-up” between McCain and Shelby. which brought the two men nose-to-nose, is practically Senate lore.
It was even described vividly by the Arizona senator himself in his 2002 memoir, “Worth the Fighting For.”
McCain writes about becoming upset at Shelby during the failed 1989 confirmation of former GOP Texas Sen. John Tower, as defense secretary. McCain wrote that he thought he, himself, would erupt in full view of the press and public when the then-Democrat Shelby voted against the confirmation, despite what he and Tower had thought had been a pledge by Shelby to support Tower.
“But I managed to exercise a little self-restraint and waited until after the end of the vote, when only a few senators would be present as witnesses, to bring my nose within an inch of his as I screamed out my intense displeasure over his deceit and my general frustration with the injustice that was being done to my friend,” McCain wrote.
Said Shelby of that incident: “It doesn’t matter today.”