BEL AIR, Calif. (AP) — Former first lady Nancy Reagan endorsed John McCain for president Tuesday as the Arizona senator continued to collect backing from leading Republicans who might help him unite the party and win over critical conservative voters.
The GOP nominee-in-waiting, in the midst of a West Coast fundraising swing, stopped by the Southern California home of President Reagan’s widow to accept the endorsement from the Republican matriarch he called beloved and wonderful.
She and McCain met privately in the Reagan home before they emerged, arm in arm, through the front door to meet reporters.
Her eventual support was expected, and she became the latest top Republican to fall in line behind McCain. The two have long been close.
The endorsement could help him shore up the backing of conservatives who view him skeptically for his record of breaking with the party on some issues.
McCain said he hopes the endorsement brings the fractured party together and said: “This is an important, most important kind of expression of confidence in my ability to lead the party that I could have.”
The former first lady has nurtured her husband’s legacy and generally has stayed out of the political spotlight in recent years, with a few exceptions. She remained quiet during the multicandidate fight for the GOP nod but attended debates held at her husband’s presidential library in Simi Valley, Calif.
In 2006, she lobbied in favor of legislation to expand federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, a position McCain shares, but President Bush vetoed the bill. President Reagan suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.
She also waded into the Virginia Senate race that year when Democratic candidate James Webb, who served as Navy secretary in the Reagan administration, ran an ad featuring 1985 video footage of President Reagan praising Webb’s gallantry as a Marine. Nancy Reagan’s office sent Webb’s campaign a letter objecting to the use of the Reagan footage.