McCain suggests Hoeven as possible vice president candidate

John Hoeven

FARGO – Former North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven was elected Sen. Hoeven in 2010.

Two years later, could he be elected Vice President Hoeven?

John McCain thinks so.

Hoeven might be a long shot for Mitt Romney’s pick in the 2012 race, but the man who was in Romney’s shoes four years ago thinks Hoeven would be worth considering.

During a visit to Fargo Saturday, Sen. McCain said he “could make the case” for Hoeven as a strong VP pick for Romney.

Romney, who clinched the GOP nomination for president, has yet to name a running mate. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman are among the most talked-about possibilities in the 2012 “veepstakes.”

But in an interview with The Forum Saturday night, McCain put Hoeven among his short list of VP candidates.

“Proven guard as a governor, outstanding senator from the heartland of America,” McCain said, with a jovial shrug. “What do you think?”

Hoeven laughed bashfully when McCain jokingly referred to him as “Vice President Hoeven.”

Hoeven said his choices for Romney would be Rubio or Portman.

McCain, who’s served as Arizona’s senator for nearly 30 years, spent Saturday in Fargo as Hoeven’s guest.

The two toured Fargo’s Air National Guard base and spent the evening at a Republican fundraiser to rally the party’s base three days before North Dakota’s June 12 primary.

On Tuesday, Republican voters will decide contested races for the U.S. House and Senate.

Rick Berg

McCain made unabashedly clear who he wants with him in the Senate next year: Rep. Rick Berg, the Republican-endorsed candidate in North Dakota’s hotly contested race.

“Rick has the ability to hit the ground running,” McCain said. “He has the background of leadership in the Legislature. He has a leadership role in the U.S. Congress.”

“When we regain control of the Senate and when we have control of the House and the presidency, there will be an agenda that’s going to require a lot of work on the part of all of us and the experience Rick has,” McCain said.

Berg is facing a challenge Tuesday from Republican hopeful Duane Sand, who McCain said is a “fine man,” but added “Rick is ready to go.”

McCain said he didn’t know much about Berg’s competitor, Democrat Heidi Heitkamp.
Looking ahead to November, McCain said “it’s too close to call” whether Republicans will gain the majority in the Senate, as they’re campaigning to do.

“Frankly, we need North Dakota to get to 51,” McCain said, reflecting the national interest in the state’s race.

Hoeven said McCain’s presence in North Dakota three days before the June primary shows the importance of the Senate contest.

“We appreciate him being here so much,” Hoeven said. “John is a real leader in the Senate. … He’s an American hero; he’s an icon.

Earlier Saturday, McCain, Hoeven and other North Dakota leaders visited Fargo’s Air National Guard base.

McCain, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he’s “guardedly optimistic” Fargo’s flying mission will be maintained through defense legislation working its way through Congress.

A proposal by the Department of Defense threatens to make North Dakota the only Air Guard unit in the country without a flying mission.

McCain said there’s still more work to be done in the Senate on the National Defense Reauthorization Act, but he’s hopeful that the final bill will include cargo jets originally promised to Fargo’s base.

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