The Note: McCain 3.0

Here comes the McCain comeback -- again.

A bulldog is in place, outside help is on the way, and the candidate is even coming back to the country on his new plane (action-hero style -- along with some hostages).

Suddenly, Sen. John McCain is catching some breaks.

And so the new narrative is primed and in place (and it's the same as an old narrative): McCain could actually do this thing. (Actually, while the polls remain tight, right now he'd settle for not being counted out -- but he'll take what he can get.)

Maybe the start of his Colombia trip (and that's with two "Os") -- when McCain left U.S. soil, with its sputtering economy and spiraling gas prices, and declared war on drugs like it was 1984 -- will be remembered like the house-cleaning of almost exactly a year ago: When the campaign hit bottom.

McCain is writing the latest script with Steve Schmidt, who brings discipline, decisiveness, and determination to his new role -- and most importantly, the perception of all three qualities for the journalists and GOP insiders who were almost ready to give up on McCain.

No more silly backdrops, whiffed opportunities, and bad travel decisions; instead, a taste of the Bush/Arnold swagger for the final four-month stretch. (And Schmidt will move soon to kill off the regional campaign structure that Rick Davis put in place for the campaign -- a recipe for the type of muddled messaging Schmidt exists on this earth to eliminate.)

"This guy has the manner of a drill sergeant," ABC's George Stephanopoulos said on "Good Morning America" Thursday. "He is a tough task-master. If anybody can bring coherence to the McCain campaign, it's Steve Schmidt."

"The Sergeant has been promoted," Jonathan Martin and Mike Allen write for Politico. "Schmidt, who had just recently returned full-time to the headquarters after spending most of his time with McCain on the road or with his family in California, responded [to the promotion] by exhorting campaign aides with a speech that one staffer likened to a locker room pep talk out of the football movie, 'Rudy.' "

"People are flocking back to the campaign to work for him," said former McCain spokesman (and one of the scores of Schmidt protégés) Brian Jones.

McCain listened: "The shift was approved by Mr. McCain after several of his aides, including Mr. Schmidt, went to him about 10 days ago and warned him that he was in danger of losing the presidential election unless he revamped his campaign operation," Adam Nagourney writes in The New York Times.

"In an early insight into the impact of Mr. Schmidt's new role, the campaign is planning what will amount to a restarting of Mr. McCain's candidacy after Independence Day, in which he will tour the country talking about a jobs program and visiting battleground states intended to illustrate the economic woes he will be talking about: Colorado, Wisconsin and Michigan," Nagourney reports.

(And can Schmidt change things like this? "Somebody asked, 'What's the strategy behind this?' " Charlie Black said of McCain's current foreign travel. "It's simple. McCain says he wants to go to these places, and we say, of course.")

He'll be judged fast: "Change will be evident as soon as next week, when the retooled, focused messaging machine replaces an approach that has seemed more sporadic," writes The Wall Street Journal's Elizabeth Holmes. "Sen. McCain will focus on the economy every day, pushing a carefully crafted and consistent message."

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