It's a cruel twist of irony for Sen. John McCain: The same man who beat him in 2000 could defeat him again in 2008.
With immigration and Iraq dominating the short-term politics on Capitol Hill and the presidential campaign, President Bush and McCain, R-Ariz., find their political fates intertwined. If the president is to salvage any portion of his agenda, he'll need to start with immigration -- and pray for good news on Iraq. The stakes are even higher for McCain, whose campaign is facing one of those early make-or-break moments with less than three weeks left in the second-quarter money race.
It all comes while McCain faces pressure from the not-yet candidates: former senator Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., is stealing his money men, and former House speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., declared flatly on Friday that McCain can't win the nomination because of the immigration issue. Asked by ABC's George Stephanopoulos yesterday on "This Week" whether he's "dead man walking," McCain hesitated for a moment and replied, "That's what they said this time in 1999." (True, but is that campaign really the model you want to follow, senator?)
McCain advisers see Iraq and immigration as ways to highlight the senator's commitment to principle, as he seeks to recapture the magic of early 2000. But that's a tortuous path to the nomination. Newsweek's Holly Bailey: "There's a thin line between courage and folly. How much do voters really value conviction -- particularly when it runs up against their own beliefs?"
Per the new AP/Ipsos poll, Thompson is quickly grabbing conservative support and is virtually tied with McCain for second place in the GOP field -- and running ahead of former governor Mitt Romney, R-Mass. -- even before Thompson does any heavy lifting on the order of his Leno appearance tomorrow night. That same poll showed former senator John Edwards, D-N.C., well back in fourth in a field that includes Al Gore, with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., holding a 12-point edge over Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.
If the immigration bill died last week, Bush, McCain and company are seeking to bring back the dead. As Bush prepares for a rare visit to Capitol Hill tomorrow, Democratic leaders say they'll return to the measure if -- big word there -- Republicans can agree on a set number of amendments, Carl Hulse reports in The New York Times. "I'll see you at the bill signing," the president said this morning in Bulgaria.
But first the president has to deal with another piece of distracting news upon his welcome to the States. (Between the street-naming and the stamp and the babies named "George," Albania wasn't so bad, was it?) The Senate today will seek to take up a no-confidence vote on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, just when it looked like the drip-drip of damaging revelations about Gonzales' tenure had been shut off.
Democrats almost certainly lack the 60 votes they need to get to a final vote, and Bush says he's ignoring the Senate action anyway. Yet conservative columnist Robert Novak posits that the GOP's "prevailing opinion" is that Bush's loyalties are misguided: He should dump Gonzales, and pardon "Scooter" Libby. "The Gonzales-Libby equation is symbolic of Republican discontent with their president," Novak writes.
Also from the weekend:
Sen. Mel Martinez, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, called out two of his party's leading presidential candidates on the immigration issue yesterday. He said on Bloomberg television that Romney and former mayor Rudolph Giuliani, R-N.Y., need to do more than criticize. "I have to say, on this issue they are falling short," said Martinez, R-Fla. "What is your answer?" (When judging what this means, imagine the furor if DNC Chairman Howard Dean had said the Clinton and Obama healthcare plans "fall short.")
More fallout from the immigration debate: Democrats are finding it easier to reach out to Hispanic voters, Raymond Hernandez reported in yesterday's New York Times. "The bill's setback -- a major defeat for President Bush -- could complicate Republican efforts to win over the fast-growing Hispanic electorate and help Democrats solidify their hold on these voters," he writes. Hernandez places Clinton as the early front-runner among Latino voters, ahead of even Gov. Bill Richardson, D-N.M., who is Hispanic and speaks fluent Spanish.
Colin Powell delivered another headache to the White House yesterday, saying on NBC's "Meet the Press" that Guantanamo Bay should be closed "this afternoon" and labeling it a "major, major problem" for the US. He also confirmed the tantalizing tidbit that he has met not once but twice with Obama, who aims to be what many in the GOP wanted for Powell: the nation's first black president.
Giuliani's testy relationship with New York's black community got scrutiny in the Sunday Washington Post, with Perry Bacon Jr. weighing in on his "almost toxic relationship with African Americans in the city, a relationship that shows no sign of healing 5 1/2 years after Giuliani left Gracie Mansion." It's hard to see this being a major issue in the GOP primary, but for a candidate who is running almost entirely on his record as mayor, such stories from the home front don't help.
Florida Democrats are making official: They're ignoring DNC rules and holding a full-blown primary Jan. 29, the St. Petersburg Times' Adam Smith reports. That means candidates who campaign in Florida stand to lose convention delegates, but with the party now planning a non-binding straw poll in October in addition to the primary, don't expect a shunning of the Sunshine State.
Clinton took a "softer approach" than Obama in Detroit, saying the nation needs to raise the gas mileage of the vehicles it produces but promising to pair higher fuel standards with federal help on automakers' healthcare costs, John D. Stoll reports in The Wall Street Journal. "I believe we need to do more to support the American auto makers," Clinton told an AFL-CIO gathering.
The Senate turns to energy legislation today, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., kicks things off with a speech that sums up Bush's G8 proposal on climate change as a complicated way to "ignore it." "The time for more meetings and blue-ribbon panels is long past," Reid plans to say, per excerpts released by his office. With summer driving season upon us, it's fair to say the Democrats are feeling the political heat once reserved for Republicans.
Is Social Security drawing breath again? Fortune's Nina Easton has details of secret meetings between the House Ways and Means Committee's chairman and ranking Republican, with everything on the table -- except, apparently, the president's involvement. "[Jim] McCrery and I know that we don't need the president to revive Social Security reform," said Chairman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y.
Here are three names you haven't seen in the same sentence before: Bill Frist, Tom Daschle, Bono. ONE Vote '08, a $30 million political offshoot of Bono's ONE Campaign, launches this morning with an 11:15 ET press conference on Capitol Hill. The two former Senate majority leaders and campaign co-chairs -- Frist, R-Tenn., and Daschle, D-S.D. -- will be joined by Ashley Judd, with Bono, Matt Damon, and Tom Brady joining via a video.
"They were just in disbelief, saying that's not true, Jesus is coming back to Missouri," Tom Grover, Mormon talk-radio host, describing listeners' reaction to Romney's statement on ABC's "This Week" that the Messiah will return to Jerusalem.