Former Governor Milliken Backs Away From McCain
GRAND RAPIDS -- He endorsed John McCain in the presidential primary, but now former Republican Gov. William Milliken is expressing doubts about his party's nominee.
"He is not the McCain I endorsed," said Milliken, reached at his Traverse City home Thursday. "He keeps saying, 'Who is Barack Obama?' I would ask the question, 'Who is John McCain?' because his campaign has become rather disappointing to me.
"I'm disappointed in the tenor and the personal attacks on the part of the McCain campaign, when he ought to be talking about the issues."
Milliken, a lifelong Republican, is among some past leaders from the party's moderate wing voicing reservations and, in some cases, opposition to McCain's candidacy.
During a stop in Grand Rapids on Thursday, Lincoln Chafee, a former Republican U.S. senator from Rhode Island, said he's voting for Obama and urging others to do likewise.
McCain campaigned for Chafee's unsuccessful re-election bid in 2006, but Chafee said he is concerned McCain has swung to the right, a divisive strategy that could make it difficult for him to govern.
"That's not my kind of Republicanism," said Chafee, who now calls himself an independent. "I saw what Bush and Cheney did. They came in with a (budget) surplus and a stable world, and look what's happened now. In eight short years they've taken one peaceful and prosperous world, and they've torn it into tatters."
As for McCain's choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for his running mate, "there's no question she's totally unqualified," Chafee said.
He had similar reservations about Obama's lack of experience, but said the Democrat's handling of the campaign convinced him he's ready to lead.
Chafee said he has spoken with several other moderate Republican leaders, and "there are a whole lot of us deserting."
One of them is Phil Arthurhultz, a former Republican state senator from Whitehall, who was traveling the state with Chafee to drum up support for Obama.
Bob Eleveld is a former Kent County Republican chairman who led McCain's West Michigan campaign in 2000. This year, he has remained mum unless asked.
"I'm not supporting either of them at this point," he said. "Suffice it to say there are a number of people who have been strong Republicans in the past, including party chairs, who feel as I do."
He declined to name them.
In the past, McCain was more of a moderate known for his straight talk, Eleveld said.
"I think the straight talk is gone," he said, describing himself as a member of the party's moderate wing. "I think he's pandering to the Christian right. That's some straight talk from me."
Whether they represent a widespread movement or a few disenchanted members in the Republican Party is unclear.
"I don't think for one minute John McCain has violated the trust we put in him," said Marge Byington Potter, a former chairwoman of the Kent County Commission, who calls herself a moderate Republican. "I think McCain understands people are in a situation that people are hurting terribly."
Milliken stopped short of saying he will vote for Obama, but said he differs with McCain on the Iraq war and his choice of Palin.
"I know John McCain is 72. In my book, that's quite young," said Milliken, 86, Michigan's longest-serving governor. But he added, "What if she were to become president of the United States? The idea, to me, is quite disturbing, if not appalling.
"Increasingly, the party is moving toward rigidity, and I don't like that. I think Gerald Ford would hold generally the same view I'm holding on the direction of the Republican Party."
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