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Gramm quits McCain campaign

July 18, 2008 |  6:44 pm

Phil Gramm may have gotten back into John McCain's good graces, but he won't stick around as an official campaign advisor to the Republican presidential candidate.

Earlier today it looked like Gramm would play an ongoing role in the McCain campaign. Columnist Robert Novak reported that the two old buddies had patched up their differences over Gramm's recent blunder -- namely, the former Texas senator's remarks that America was a "nation of whiners" and that the country was in a "mental recession." Gramm was said to be staying on as a McCain advisor and campaign surrogate.

Barack Obama's campaign, however, pounced on the rapprochement. It faulted McCain for giving tax relief to oil companies while providing no breaks for millions of middle-class families. And it stuck in the dagger by adding that it "shouldn't come as a surprise, since today we learned that Phil Gramm will continue to advise Sen. McCain on economic policy."

By this evening, Gramm was done. In a statement, he said:

"It is clear to me that Democrats want to attack me rather than debate Sen. McCain on important economic issues facing the country. That kind of distraction hurts not only Sen. McCain's ability to present concrete programs to deal with the country's problems; it hurts the country. To end this distraction and get on with the real debate, I hereby step down as co-chair of the McCain campaign and join the growing number of rank-and-file McCain supporters."

This is hardly the first time this campaign season that a verbal gaffe has led to a quick departure. Samantha Power quit her role as a foreign policy advisor to Obama following a dust-up over some of her comments, including calling Hillary Rodham Clinton a "monster."

And in December, just before the primary season started, the co-chair of Clinton's New Hampshire campaign, Billy Shaheen, departed after stirring up controversy by commenting on Obama's acknowledged drug use as a youth.

-- Stuart Silverstein

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