WASHINGTON, July 6 (UPI) -- Conservative Republican leaders are coalescing around Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., as the next GOP presidential candidate, the Washington Times reports.
Former Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, has joined the McCain bandwagon. The newspaper said he has been helping McCain with speech-writing for some time.
McCain's fundraising ability has helped put him ahead of other hopeful candidates such as former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. He has been sharing the wealth with Republican state committees around the country -- and some of the wealth has even made its way down to the county level, the newspaper said.
"He is the only person I know who is running and capable of getting elected who is tough enough to do what needs to be done," Gramm said. "He will veto spending bills and earmarks and stand up to the Social Security and Medicare challenges that will fall in the next president's lap with the baby boomer retirement."
President George W. Bush also appears to have given McCain a tacit blessing. McCain campaigned with the president in 2004 after losing the nomination to him four years earlier, in a race that included whispered slurs against McCain's honesty and stability.