During his career in the Senate, the Arizona Republican has reached across the aisle to liberal icons, like Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, a trend that troubles some of the party faithful.
"(Conservatives) don't like that kind of governance," former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) said at a breakfast panel on Wednesday hosted by Politico.
But that tendency also makes him attractive to independent voters, his GOP colleagues in St. Paul said, illustrating the difficult balance McCain must achieve here this week between pleasing the party's conservative base while reaching out to the swing voters who could decide this election.
"He has an established pattern for working with Democrats, from Russ Feingold to Ted Kennedy, which drives our base nuts," said South Dakota Sen. John Thune in an interview with Politico. "At the end of the day, that could be something that's helpful to him."
Lawmakers interviewed here this week mentioned a host of issues they would like to see McCain address in his speech Thursday night, from a re-emphasis on health care reform to his commitment to smaller government. But reform has emerged as a common theme - consider it the GOP version of "change." His selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as a running mate has only emphasized that point.
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