Republican John McCain tried to ease concerns that he is too old to be president, opening medical records that show the three-time melanoma survivor appears cancer-free, has a strong heart, and is in general good health.
The former Vietnam prisoner-of-war also attacked the likely Democratic nominee Barack Obama today for never having served in uniform as the two took aim at each other in yet another sign that the presidential race is rapidly moving toward their general election matchup.
McCain will turn 72 in August and would be the oldest US president elected to a first term.
Early on in the primaries, a number of voters said McCain’s age was a problem, but recent surveys suggest it may not be as big an issue. An ABC News-Washington Post poll conducted in April found 70% saying McCain’s age would not make any difference to their vote. Other recent polls found similar results, with two-thirds or more saying his age does not matter.
His most recent health checks show a range of issues common in ageing: He frequently has precancerous skin lesions removed, and in February had an early stage squamous cell carcinoma, an easily cured skin cancer, removed. He had benign colon growths called polyps taken out during a routine colonoscopy in March.
McCain has degenerative arthritis from war injuries that might mean a future joint replacement. His blood pressure and weight were healthy, and his cholesterol good but not optimal.
McCain’s age has been highlighted now that it appears Democrats will select the 46-year-old Obama over rival Hillary Rodham Clinton as his opponent in the November election. While age has not been an explicit issue, Obama has campaigned on a call for change while McCain has highlighted his experience, especially on national security.
McCain was a Navy fighter pilot who was shot down and spent nearly six years as a Vietnam prisoner-of-war, and he is likely to stress his impressive military record and Obama’s lack of one as the race moves forward.
His comments came after the Illinois senator accused McCain and unpopular President George W. Bush of “political posturing” for opposing a bill that would guarantee full university scholarships for those who serve in the military for three years. The Democratic Congress passed the measure.
“I will not accept from Senator Obama, who did not feel it was his responsibility to serve our country in uniform, any lectures on my regard for those who did,” McCain senator said in a statement.
While the contest for the Democratic nomination is not over, Obama leads Clinton in the delegate count and it is virtually impossible for her to catch up with only three primaries remaining. Obama has 1,965 delegates to Clinton’s 1,780, with 2,026 needed to win the nomination.
Also today, McCain rejected endorsements from two influential but controversial televangelists. McCain refused the months-old endorsement of Texas preacher John Hagee after an audio recording surfaced in which the preacher said God sent Adolf Hitler to help Jews reach the promised land. He also repudiated the support of Rod Parsley, an Ohio preacher who has sharply criticised Islam and called the religion inherently violent.