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."
Understandably, Democrats are more than a little skeptical, in part because of the ill-timed global-warming comments by NASA administrator Michael Griffin that showed that SOMEbody hasn't watched "An Inconvenient Truth": "I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with." The Washington Post's Dana Milbank notices the White House's focus on works like "aspirational" and "sensible," and points out that the new standards would take effect four years AFTER Bush leaves office.
The State newspaper publishes results of a Winthrop/ETV poll in South Carolina that has Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and former mayor Rudolph Giuliani, R-N.Y., leading their respective fields, though with Giuliani's edge on McCain tighter than Clinton's advantage over Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. Former senator Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., places fourth in the GOP field (though the poll was conducted before his recent moves toward a candidacy). The poll also shows no clear choice emerging among independents: they like Rudy and Hillary, too.
With Giuliani nabbing the endorsement of former FBI director Louis Freeh yesterday, Huffington Post's Tom Edsall explores the "groundswell of opposition from disparate forces" that's coming together to try to derail Giuliani's campaign. His enemies (not including the firefighters' union or the scattered 9/11 families who are protesting his appearances): "conservative Catholics, remnants of Pat Buchanan's presidential campaigns and regional political operatives seeking to break into the Republican firmament."
Fred Thompson speaks in Richmond tomorrow (expect a prepared text this time), and New York Times columnist David Brooks has kind words for his candidacy, describing it as a "return to the basics" for the GOP, a potentially good recipe for a "traumatized party." "Thompson's core theme is that there is a disconnect between the American people and their rulers," Brooks writes.
Did former senator John Edwards, D-N.C., read the classified intelligence report on Iraq before he didn't read it? His campaign told ABC News yesterday that Edwards misunderstood the question when he said Wednesday that he had read the National Intelligence Estimate prepared for Congress shortly before the Iraq war was authorized. Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., appears to be the only presidential contender to have read the NIE.
Obama is getting some pushback from the Big Three automakers after his speech chastising them over fuel efficiency. "I would love to invite him to our Chicago assembly plant in his state and see where we make a vehicle that's more efficient than the one he's currently driving," Bill Ford Jr. said yesterday, per the Detroit News' David Shepardson.
The Chicago Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet learns details of Obama's "fund-raising binge," which includes 23 fund-raisers over the past five weeks of the second quarter. "He's under self-imposed pressure to show he can deliver because he beat his rivals in collecting money for the primary in the first quarter of the year and wants to show he can keep up the pace," Sweet writes.
The blogosphere's dissection of the two new Hillary Clinton books is underway even before they hit bookstores next week. The Talkleft.com blog compiles a handy list of "sexist" references in Carl Bernstein's "A Woman in Charge," tracking Bernstein's insights on everything from her hairstyles to her ankle size, as well as her "national nanny" voice and the fact that she's not likely to bring casseroles to comfort grieving friends.
"Every woman in this audience knows what it's like to try on a bathing suit in a dressing room with a fluorescent light. And there will not be broad-based market acceptance until we get a better glow from the fluorescent lights!" Senator Clinton, imploring CEOs to make advances in energy-efficient technologies.
"I haven't been able to articulate that publicly," retired general Wesley Clark, declining to explain his current stance on whether he'll run for president again, though he added: "I haven't said I won't run."
I'll be blogging live from Manchester during Sunday's Democratic debate. Be part of the conversation.