The Note: Patriot Games

Gov. Tim Pawlenty, R-Minn., hits the next GOP talking point: "The question really remains, when has Barack Obama stood up and taken on his party on anything of national significance?" Pawlenty said on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos."

There's an opening here that's bigger than the sum of its (flip-flopping) parts: "Since he clinched the nomination, Obama has become a fairly traditional presidential candidate, shoring up the party base by telling interest groups what they want to hear," Newsweek's Evan Thomas writes. "Obama gets testy or huffy when reporters draw attention to his expediency."

Mind the brand: "Obama has risen like a rocket through this election season because he has looked, sounded and operated differently. But in the last two weeks, he has lost altitude as he gets closer and closer to taking possession of the real presidential seal, not just the embarrassing facsimile launched by his overconfident staff," writes Chicago Sun-Times columnist Carol Marin. "A pattern is becoming clear."

Not that McCain hasn't provided ammunition of his own: "McCain, too, has become an uncharacteristically cautious pol of late. The candidate who once loved to riff on the record for hours with reporters can now be seen reading his talking points from index cards," Thomas writes in Newsweek.

Can a new plane recapture an old image? "The aircraft, a Boeing 737-400, which has the 'Straight Talk' logo emblazoned on its fuselage, tries to recreate the feel of the back of Mr. McCain's campaign bus in a special area near the front of the plane," Michael Cooper reports in The New York Times.

Obama can play the consistency game, too: "I know he talked about [his commitment to immigration reform] when he just spoke before you, but what he didn't mention is that when he was running for his party's nomination, he walked away from that commitment," Obama said Saturday, per ABC's Bret Hovell and Jennifer Duck.

And on immigration, Tom Tancredo looms: "I expect to be supporting him in November," Tancredo, R-Colo., tells Time's Michael Scherer. "But certainly it is not set in stone."

Scherer: "Tancredo is not the only one unclear about McCain's immigration position after the contentious primary campaign, in which the issue regularly polled as the second most important among likely [Republican] voters, next to the Iraq war. . . . More recently, however, McCain has switched back to his earlier rhetoric on the issue."

Speaking of consistency . . . McCain got what he needed out of North Carolina on Sunday. "Senator John McCain, who has had trouble courting faith-based voters, went to the mountaintop on Sunday -- Billy Graham's Blue Ridge mountaintop retreat in western North Carolina, that is -- and met with the evangelist and his son the Rev. Franklin Graham for a private, 45-minute conversation," Robert D. McFadden writes in The New York Times. "There were no endorsements after the meeting at the rustic retreat."

He may be a maverick, but he's no moderate: "At a time when the Republican president's approval ratings are in the cellar, it's helpful for the Republican vying to replace him to have a certain reputation: maverick," Wes Allison writes in the St. Petersburg Times.

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PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin works out at Bocharov Ruchei residence in Sochi, Russia, Aug. 30, 2015.
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