From the department of worried Republicans: "Even as McCain's strategists claim tactical victories, Republicans outside the campaign worry that underlying weaknesses in its organization and message are costing him valuable time to make the case for his own candidacy," Michael D. Shear and Juliet Eilperin write in the Sunday Washington Post. "Allies complain that the campaign has offered myriad confusing themes that lurch between pitching McCain as a committed conservative one day and an independent-minded reformer the next, while displaying little of the discipline and focus that characterized President Bush's successful campaigns."
Which strategy would you endorse? The Detroit News' Gordon Trowbridge sees "very different strategies" in the battle for Michigan. "Obama, who had boycotted the state for nearly a year, visited three times in May and June in an attempt to make up for lost time, and get his ground game going here," he writes. "McCain has focused more on building a national message -- going to Houston, for example, to talk about oil drilling -- rather than concentrating on battleground states."
Obama said Friday that he's ready for the GOP scare tactics: "They're going to try to make you afraid of me. He's young and inexperienced and he's got a funny name. And did I mention he's black."
But he can protest too much: "It is inaccurate to call Barack Obama a Muslim. Is it a slur? The Obama campaign suggests it is," Amy Chozick writes in The Wall Street Journal. "The characterization highlights a tricky balance the campaign is trying to strike: to tamp down false rumors -- intended by some to link the Democratic presidential candidate to radical Islam -- without offending Muslims and harming his image of inclusiveness."
Black is (electorally) beautiful: "Barack Obama's campaign strategists are quietly laying plans to draw African American voters to the polls in unprecedented numbers by capitalizing on the excitement over the prospect of electing the nation's first black president," Peter Wallsten writes in the Los Angeles Times. "Obama strategists believe they have identified a gold mine of new and potentially decisive Democratic voters in at least five battleground states -- voters who failed to turn out in the past but can be mobilized this time because Obama's candidacy is historic and his cash-rich campaign can afford the costly task of identifying and motivating such supporters."
"The strategy requires a deft touch and carries risks, however," Wallsten continues. "In large part, Obama, an Illinois senator who is the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas, has succeeded so far by appealing across racial lines. Strategists say he cannot afford to appear to be exploiting race or running solely as a black candidate -- particularly as he courts moderate whites and blue-collar workers who did not support him in the primaries."
The Boston Globe's Sasha Issenberg profiles McCain through the lens of two trips he took to Vietnam, in 1974 and 1985. "Those two trips -- one as McCain negotiated his reentry into American life and the other as he began his ascent as a national political figure -- helped ensure that Vietnam would remain part of McCain long after the war's end," he writes. "These legacies of the Vietnam war became signature causes of McCain's first decade in politics and helped to build his reputation as a conciliator unfazed by past antagonisms."