photo source: AP

Having already secured the Republican nomination four weeks ago, waves of anxiety are sweeping through John McCain's small circle of advisers.

A Democratic legislator has been turning up with him at fund-raisers, visiting his offices and accompanying him on a clientís corporate jet. Convinced the relationship has become romantic, some of his top advisers have intervened to protect the candidate from himself ó instructing staff members to block the manís access, privately warning him away and repeatedly confronting McCain, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity.

Mr. McCain, 71, and the legislator, Joe Lieberman, 66, both say they have never had a romantic relationship. But to his advisers, even the appearance of a close bond with a Democrat whose clients often had business before the Senate committee Mr. McCain led threatened the story of redemption and rectitude that defined his political identity.

"John McCain is a republican first and foremost, but this is hard to explain. For Christ's sake, Lieberman just turned up with him again in Iraq," said one source close to McCain. "We've warned the Senator repeatedly what effect this could have in the general election, even if their relationship is every bit as innocent as he asserts. But I fear that it's not - those two have even taken to dressing alike, as though they had intimate knowledge of each other's wardrobes. I see nothing good that can come out of this."


©2008, Mark Hoback