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The Hill: Sen. McCain's Presidential Endorsement, GOP Leadership In Senate

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With just a few weeks to go before voting in the Republican presidential primaries gets under way, candidates are working to accumulate endorsements. One of them may come from the previous Republican presidential nominee. Arizona Senator John McCain said earlier this year that he would not endorse in this election cycle, but as Alex Bolton -- senior staff writer for The Hill reports, he appears to have changed his mind.

What are you hearing about the likelihood that McCain will endorse?

"I asked McCain today if he might endorse in the Presidential primary today, and he said yes, but probably not for some while," says Bolton.

That is still far from a definitive answer, but Bolton says this indicates he is closer to making an endorsement than he was earlier this year, when he said categorically that he would not get involved in the 2012 presidential primary.

Why might he be changing his mind about endorsing?

Senate Republicans are very worried about Newt Gingrich's electability.

"Romney was very helpful to McCain's 2008 presidential campaign after he clinched the nomination -- Romney would go wherever McCain asked whenever McCain asked. And he also went to Arizona in 2010 to campaign for McCain during his difficult primary race."

There are concerns that Gingrich could fumble what should be an easily winnable race against Obama in 2012. That might be part of McCain's calculation. The other is that in April, when McCain said he wouldn't endorse, Sarah Palin was still a potential candidate, and it's possible that McCain didn't want to have to play favorites.

What kind of impact could an endorsement from McCain have?

Senator McCain is very popular in New Hampshire. He won the New Hampshire presidential primary in 2000 and 2008, and that is a must-win state for Romney. Romney is expected to lose in Iowa, so a McCain endorsement before the New Hampshire could be a big boost.

"McCain is also popular amongst Republicans who rank national security as a top issue in South Carolina, and that's another tough race for Romney," says Bolton.

Meanwhile, Senators Roy Blunt and Ron Johnson are in the race for the Republican leadership spot being vacated by Senator Lamar Alexander. What kind of dynamic is that setting up?

It sets up a dynamic between the GOP establishment, as represented by Roy Blunt -- who was the Republican whip in the House for six years -- and his opponent Ron Johnson -- who is a Tea Party Republican and has the backing of prominent Tea Party Republicans in the Senate like Jim Demint and Marco Rubio.

"It represents a tussle within the Senate Republican caucus over the future -- whether they want to go more towards the GOP establishment or the Tea Party right," says Bolton.

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