John McCain is firing up the brand spanking new Straight Talk Express Airborne Edition for a quick trip to Indianapolis Tuesday before jetting down to Colombia to start his three-day foreign swing.
The trip down south highlights McCain's foreign policy and national security bona fides but polls show that he already leads Barack Obama in those categories.
So why take three days off the campaign trail, with just 126 to go until Election Day? Especially when Americans are saying loud and clear that their Number One issue is the economy?
McCain's foreign travel showcases his ability to lead on foreign policy and national security -- still key issues for voters (especially Republicans) despite the focus on the economy. Any day that the campaign dialogue is about foreign affairs is probably a good day for the McCain campaign -- at least they seem to think so, or else they would not schedule this trip for the week of Fourth of July. (Can the advance team drape some red, white and blue bunting at his events in Colombia and Mexico?)
This is not McCain's first trip abroad since wrapping up the Republican nomination -- he was in Canada earlier this month and Europe and the Middle East in March. But the timing of that trip made more sense because at the time, Obama was still locked in a bitter duel with Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.
There are no electoral votes in Colombia or Mexico so whether this trip helps move McCain closer to the White House is unclear. Obama has his own trip abroad planned for later this summer, with stops in Europe and Iraq and Afghanistan, but he stands to gain points in the areas he needs to by burnishing his foreign policy and national security credentials with meetings with foreign leaders and U.S. military leaders.
On Tuesday in Cartagena, McCain will tout his support for free trade with Colombia and point out that his opponent does not agree with him on this issue. Later in the week, expect McCain to talk about immigration reform in Mexico as well the drug trade.
McCain meets with Colombia President Uribe Tuesday evening. On the agenda, per ABC News' Bret Hovell: FARC, stopping the drug trade, border security and how to deal with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (another area where McCain can talk about the differences between him and Obama). McCain will have quite the foreign policy tableau in Cartagena. Joining the presumptive Republican nominee and Uribe will be the Colombia's Ambassador to the U.S. Carolina Barco and U.S. Ambassador to Colombia William Brownfield and several cabinet ministers.
McCain also has a media availability on his schedule tomorrow night. That four-hour flight south on the new plane may be a good time to brush up on any obscure foreign policy issue that may come up in a question from the local media.
First though, McCain heads to Indianapolis for remarks to the National Sheriffs' Association. Look for the senator to talk about crime reduction measures and contrast his stance on crime with Obama's.
Dial My Heart. . . At last, Obama and former President Bill Clinton connected by telephone. Oh to be listening in on those phone lines… (We couldn't listen in this time, but if the emergency call comes in while Obama is overseas next month, perhaps we can tap the call and retroactively get a warrant -- thanks to legislation he plans to vote for this week.)