For right now, the focus for John McCain and Barack Obama, as well as an assorted cast of surrogates and spokespeople, is on energy. Both candidates want to own this issue and present new ideas and leadership to address short and long-term relief from soaring energy costs.
McCain will hold a roundtable briefing on energy independence in Santa Barbara CA on Tuesday and will be joined by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Expect McCain to continue to attack what they deem as Obama's "do-nothing energy policy."
The McCain campaign hammered on that theme on a conference call today, ABC News' Gregory Wallace and Bret Hovell report. Sen. Lindsay Graham and campaign advisor Doug Holtz-Eakin both characterized Obama's approach to energy issues as "just say no" in comparison to McCain's plans for results.
In their own conference call, Obama advisers Jason Furman and Jason Grumet called McCain's record on energy "unstable" and said his proposals will bring America "back to the future," ABC News' Wallace reports. Obama will hold an energy event in Las Vegas on Tuesday.
While energy may be getting all of the attention on the campaign trail right now, a few quotes in a magazine article show that for McCain and the Republicans, national security is still considered the trump card.
In an interview with Fortune Magazine, McCain adviser Charlie Black says that a terrorist attack on U.S. soil would be "a big advantage" for the presumptive Republican nominee, ABC News' Bret Hovell, Teddy Davis and James Gerber report.
"Certainly it would be a big advantage to him," Black told Fortune Magazine.
The senior campaign official pointed out that McCain was "helped" and "probably saved" in New Hampshire by the December 2007 assassination of Benazir Bhutto, which he deemed "one good scare, one timely reminder of the chaos lurking in the world."
"The assassination of Benazir Bhutto in December was an 'unfortunate event,'" Black said in the interview. "But (McCain's) knowledge and ability to talk about it reemphasized that this is the guy who's ready to be Commander-in-Chief. And it helped us."
At a press availability in Fresno, CA, McCain sought to distance himself from Black's comments. "I cannot imagine why he would say it," said McCain. "It's not true. I've worked tirelessly since 9/11 to prevent another attack on the United States of America."
After the Outside McCain's Fresno fundraiser, Black read a statement to the traveling press, from handwritten notes: "I deeply regret the comments—they were inappropriate. I recognize that John McCain has devoted his entire adult life to protecting his country."
The campaign is not disputing the comments, but a senior campaign official said that Black did not recall making them to Fortune. The explanation is that he was arguing that McCain has an advantage on national security issues (which is not just spin – this is reflected in polling) – so when that is in the headlines, it's advantageous for McCain.
Together At Last. . .
The Obama campaign announced today that Sen. Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton will campaign together this Friday in. . . wait for it. . . Unity, New Hampshire. It gets better -- the Obama campaign notes that both candidates received exactly 107 votes in this town in the primary. Over to you late-night comedians. . .
On the campaign front. . .
-- 1:15 pm ET: Attends discussion on energy, Las Vegas, NV.
As for the Republicans. . .