Rift? What Rift?

Crown Prince Haakon of Norway and Crown Princess Matte-Merit arrive at Incheon Airport on May 7, 2007, in Incheon, South Korea.
Sen. John McCain over the weekend sought to squelch Beltway speculation that he and President Bush have an icy political relationship that's only turning frostier.

"Here we are in the early days of a Bush administration. My job is to work with him for the good of the country, and I want to do that. But that doesn't mean that I somehow abandon all the things I've stood for all those years. But I think we can come together on them," the Arizona senator told CBS News' Face The Nation on Sunday.

This time last year, the two Republicans had endured a bitter presidential primary campaign, a fight which Mr. Bush won. Now, the senator and the president are out of sync on two high-profile issues on Capitol Hill: campaign finance reform, and a patients' bill of rights. Furthermore, McCain has frequently expressed skepticism about Mr. Bush's tax cut package.

All this has fueled talk among some Republicans, most recently amplified by an article in Sunday's New York Times, that two men have a rift, and that it's only widening.

But McCain told Face The Nation that he has "good" relations with the Bush White House, from "friends" in the administration such as Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Colin Powell to a "cordial relationship" with the president himself.

"Look, there is always going to be bad blood when there is a tough campaign. But there certainly isn't between me and the president or anybody else associated with him, nor with the majority of my people," the Arizona senator said.

"People put their heart and soul into a campaign, obviously, it takes some time to get over. But my relations with them are good. I want to work with them," he added.

Calling himself an "ally" of the administration, McCain pointed out that he and the president agree on far more issues than not, from Social Security and defense to tax reform and telecommunications.

As for campaign finance reform and a patients' bill of rights - issues where the two don't see eye-to-eye and where the senator works closely with the Democrats - McCain said, "I've been involved on work on them for a long time. And I want to work with the White House."

In the Times article, Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer said much the same.

"The president's approach is that there's common ground and we can build more of it," Fleischer said. "The president understands that legislators build various coalitions."

Last but not least, Mr. McCain was asked on Face The Nation whether he'd rule out challenging Mr. Bush for the White House in 2004 - even as an independent candidate, even if "drafted" to run, and so on.

The senator's answer: an "absolutel" no to all the above.

I envision no scenario. I have no contemplation of such a thing ... I cannot imagine that scenario," he replied.

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