The Note: Patriot Games

What -- 50 states aren't enough for these guys?

The latest odd turn in the race that's seen everything has Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain seeing places that presidential candidates just don't visit very often.

McCain is next up with a three-day trip to Colombia and Mexico that starts Tuesday, after two previous foreign trips this year brought him to Europe and the Middle East.

Obama is planning an extensive itinerary for next month: Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, Jordan, England, France, and Germany -- just as foreign policy is set to resonate on the trail again, as Obama talks patriotism, and as Democrats seek to grab the national-security mantle from McCain (under the cover of downed fighter planes).

This latest Obama introduction starts at home, with a "major speech" on patriotism scheduled for Independence, Mo., Monday morning. (Fun game: Count the American flags -- including the pin on Obama's lapel -- at the event site.)

Independence Day means patriot's week for Obama: "The message will be that love of country is not defined only by such traditional measures as serving in the military or tracing one's ancestors to the Mayflower," John McCormick writes in the Chicago Tribune. "Patriotism, he and his supporters will say, can be reflected in living the national dream, which in Obama's case means rising as the Hawaiian-born son of a Kenyan father and Kansan mother to professional and political prominence."

"In the coming days, Obama is expected to visit some traditionally red states as he seeks to broaden the electoral battleground," McCormick writes. "Over the weekend, his campaign also announced a trip this summer to Europe and the Middle East, where Obama's popularity could be on display and his standing as a diplomatic figure boosted."

We've done the math for you: The candidates' foreign destinations award a grand total of zero electoral votes.

But the coming trips provide opportunities for both men in the tentative definitional dance of the early stage of the general election. And risks: Gaffes carry a multiplier of approximately three when committed abroad, and the visuals are not always under the control of a campaign operating in foreign territory.

For McCain, R-Ariz., foreign travel may make him look presidential -- but if this race turns on the economy, shouldn't it be the American economy he's focusing on?

"It is an effort to pad his foreign-policy credentials, appear statesmanlike and drive home a message about trade and international relations," Laura Meckler writes of McCain's travels in The Wall Street Journal. "It isn't clear how much the trip will benefit Sen. McCain's No. 1 mission: being elected president. . . . Highlighting trade at a time when many Americans are nervous about their jobs may not be a political winner back home."

It's the presidency via passport: "This week, when Barack Obama campaigns in Ohio and Colorado, John McCain will be visiting Colombia and Mexico. It's an unusual path for McCain to follow. But even more, it's a risky strategy for his presidential campaign," Mark Z. Barabak writes in the Los Angeles Times. "Not since Richard M. Nixon traveled to all 50 states in 1960, fulfilling a pledge he came to regret, has a presidential candidate followed an itinerary that appears so at odds with his political needs."

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