By Steve Holland and David Alexander
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senator John McCain predicted on Tuesday a third political party will emerge in response to Americans’ economic frustrations and said it might as well be called “the Fed-Up Party.”
The Republican Party’s presidential nominee in 2008 raised the possibility of a third party about a year ago, but his comments on Tuesday suggest he has hardened his views as polls show Americans increasingly disillusioned with Washington politics.
The 75-year-old McCain may now be the most prominent politician forecasting Americans will look to another party to compete with Democrats and Republicans.
“Unless both parties change, then I think that it’s an inevitability. We aren’t doing anything for the people,” McCain said in blunt remarks at the Reuters Washington Summit.
Americans, he said, are frustrated by sluggish economic growth that has depleted their incomes while corporate executives take in massive salary bonuses.
Asked if the new option would be a centrist party, or a wing of the left or right, McCain quipped; “I think a Fed-Up Party.”
McCain spoke from experience. In his home state of Arizona, he said a third of new registered voters are independents and, in many areas of the country, independents are increasingly the swing voters who decide elections.
As for his own party, McCain expressed frustration that Republicans have not concentrated enough on the concerns of Americans struggling to make ends meet.
“The party, I think, has got to be a lot more responsive to the plight of the people,” said McCain, who lost the presidential race to Barack Obama three years ago this month.
“I think we have to weigh in far more heavily on the side of things like reforming the tax code. If we reform the tax code, then many of these large corporations that paid no taxes last year ... maybe they would.”
McCain, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee who once developed a reputation as a maverick, is sticking with his own party, at least for now.
“No, I don’t think so,” he said when asked whether he would saddle up with a third-party movement. “I will continue to complain about things but ... I still haven’t given up on the Republican Party.”
Third-party candidates in presidential elections have not had success. The most tangible result of a third-party candidacy arguably came in 1992 when Ross Perot collected enough votes from then-Republican President George H. W. Bush to help Democrat Bill Clinton win the White House.
There has been some talk in political circles that the conservative Tea Party movement could eventually field its own presidential candidate, but McCain was doubtful.
“The Tea Party was a movement, not an organization, as we know. And so they’ve kind of receded. There was never any permanency to them,” he said.
“But I think that you could see a national movement, that there’s a group of people saying ‘look we may disagree on some specific issues but we’re not one of them,’” he said.
Additional reporting by the Reuters Summit Team; editing by Mary Milliken and Jackie Frank