For the second time in this young presidential campaign, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is wrapping himself in an issue where his position runs counter to the polls. But unlike his decision to "double down" in supporting the Iraq war, his move to re-emphasize his support for the immigration bill puts him at odds with much of his party, probably most of it. The most prominent Republican he's aligning himself with is President Bush -- and GOP candidates aren't exactly rushing to continue his legacy.
So McCain will be a lonely figure on stage at Tuesday's Republican debate in New Hampshire, though that could be just what he wants. McCain will travel to Miami Monday to deliver a major speech contrasting his position with the non-positions of many of his 2008 rivals. Per a campaign adviser, he plans to hit that theme again at the debate the following day. Most of his fire will be aimed at former governor Mitt Romney, R-Mass., with the McCain camp hoping it can get the "flip-flop" label to stick. (And will we hear again about any lawn-care Guatemalans, senator?)
It's being cast as an effort to recapture the magic McCain famously bottled in 2000. Bloomberg's Heidi Przybyla writes that McCain is reading again from his "contrarian script" by challenging the rest of the GOP field on immigration, and has McCain criticizing Romney and the other front-runners for what McCain portrays as shifting stands in immigration. McCain in an interview: "I've taken on other political risks" and "almost all of the time when I do what I believe is right it turns out OK in the end." Why not one more spin of the wheel?
McCain's challenge is particularly problematic for Romney, who has to untangle a complicated record on the immigration issue, Scott Helman of The Boston Globe reports. "While Romney has been aggressive with his barbs, he has offered no specific solutions of his own to the immigration crisis," Helman writes. "With McCain and his surrogates pushing the issue hard, Romney is facing increasing questions about what he would do about the problem."
Just as McCain is highlighting his differences with the other contenders, second-tier candidates look for breakthrough moments. That's behind the interesting choice of topics in Sen. Christopher Dodd's, D-Conn., new ad (already his third of the campaign): global warming. It's history making -- environmental groups say he's the first presidential candidate to go on television to talk about the issue -- but who buys air time to tout a "carbon tax?" Washingtonpost.com's Chris Cillizza gives Dodd credit: "He's not sitting back and waiting for his window of opportunity to open, he's trying to pry it open with his own two hands."
Dodd's ad launched on the same day the president announced what's being characterized as a "major shift" on global-warming policy, with a new proposal for an international climate initiative. It comes as the White House seeks to claw its way back to relevancy: The New York Times' Sheryl Gay Stolberg casts is as a "change in tack" forced on the president by science. "But it is also an example of the kind of policy adjustment that is becoming increasingly common in the second half of his second term."