McCain Abroad

The questions about John McCain's trip to Colombia and Mexico have been swirling all week -- why go in the first place, given that he has the advantage in polls on foreign policy and national security? Why go now? Why is he talking up trade so much at the risk of alienating voters in the Rust Belt states?

The candidate himself seemed a bit defensive when he was asked these questions by ABC News' Robin Roberts on "Good Morning America" today. He defended his trip right from the start, noting that it was just a quick trip, but he focused on the drug trade, not free trade or other foreign policy issues.

McCain only briefly touched on hostages held by FARC, which is now interesting in hindsight with the news that the three Americans held by the left-wing guerilla group were rescued in a mission today. The bulletins broke late this afternoon that the three hostages had been rescued in a Colombian mission that occurred just as McCain's plane was taking off from Cartagena.

ABC News' David Wright reports from the Straight Talk Express plane that McCain and his traveling companions, Sen. Joe Lieberman and Sen. Lindsay Graham, were notified last night by Colombian President Uribe that a rescue attempt would be made today but the senators were not aware the mission was a success until Blackberries started buzzing on the plane en route to Mexico City.

How is that for stellar timing: McCain spends 24 hours on Colombia soil, hostages are rescued. (It sounds almost like a Chuck Norris Interweb fact...).

In a press availability today in Cartagena, McCain did not indicate that he was aware of the planned rescue attempt but did note that President Uribe had made "significant progress" against FARC.

McCain was asked by a Colombian reporter if he would make the release of the hostages a priority and what he would do to get their release.

"I would leave the modalities to the government of the country of Colombia, it's a sovereign nation. But I intend to do everything I can to support and increase their capabilities, to continue their success against FARC and bring about as quickly as possible the release of all hostages," McCain said.

McCain continues his foreign trip on Thursday in Mexico City and holds a media availability there.

"This was supposed to be a no rough stuff type deal!"

North Dakota is certainly getting some love from Barack Obama. Does he have a legitimate chance in the Peace Garden State or is it just a head fake to get McCain to play there?

The presumptive Democratic nominee heads to Fargo, ND Thursday to talk to veterans. The Obama campaign announced that North Dakota is one of the 18 states where they put up their first two ads of the general election.

Republican National Committee chairman Mike Duncan probably did not expect to hold bracketing calls focused on North Dakota this cycle but the party chair told reporters today that the presumptive Democratic nominee is "wrong for North Dakota."

"He's turned out to be an old fashioned politician," Duncan said, indicating a theme that will probably be used in other states. Just a hunch. 

Keep an eye on. . .

June unemployment figures which will be released Thursday at 8:30am ET. Which campaign responds first?

On the campaign front. . .

JOHN MCCAIN

-- 3:30: Holds media availability, Mexico

BARACK OBAMA

-- 1:30 pm ET: Attends event with veterans and voters, Fargo, ND.

At the White House. . .

PRESIDENT BUSH

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