"McCain needs to get away from the rearview mirror issue of Iraq; he needs to stop looking at problems in the past and start looking forward. He is strong on national security and the war, but the public is already looking forward, and he needs to begin to do the same. He needs to concentrate on domestic issues that affect voters' futures, like the economy and health care," Dowd said.
McCain did that Tuesday, speaking exclusively to ABC's Diane Sawyer from his alma mater Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Va.
"Americans are hurting. Americans are hurting badly," he said. "They are sitting around the dining room or kitchen table deciding if they should get another job, dip into their savings, or lose their home."
McCain said lenders and borrowers need to meet to faciliate helping people have forclosed on their homes. Lenders who "cashed in hundreds of millions of dollars," he said, should be punished, but did not specify how.
He said he had distinguished himself from President Bush by emphasizing a need for a national policy on climate change and by supporting a winning strategy in Iraq.
On Monday in his ancestral home of Meridian, Miss., the first stop on his biography tour, McCain highlighted job training programs because "children learn as much from observation as instruction. The mother or father who has lost hope, along with their job, can unintentionally impart that hopelessness to their children."
Government spending, he said, "must not be squandered on things we don't need and can't afford, and which don't address a single American's concern for their family's security."
The drama of the Democratic race may, however, prove to be a disadvantage for McCain. With so much attention, even negative attention, on Obama and Clinton, McCain has to work harder to get print and air time.
"It is a double-edged sword for McCain. Certainly, he's getting less attention because the Democratic race is dominating media coverage," said Howard Kurtz, media critic for the Washington Post. "But he gets less scrutiny for mistakes, such as his misstatement on Iran and al Qaeda. The campaign is trying to put him in the spotlight with his world tour, and this week with his bio tour.
"He's got the nomination wrapped and he's putting himself out there. The problem is, how many people will hear his message. Nowadays, when you turn on the TV, all you see is people fighting about whether Hillary should drop out."