McCain places his bet on New Hampshire

Washington Post:

John McCain's campaign caravan rolled through the North Country's first snowstorm of the year this weekend, the start of a last-ditch effort in the state that will once again make or break his bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

As he began his four-day tour of New Hampshire in the state's northern tier, there is a renewed, anxious energy around McCain, who has become more aggressive in challenging his better-funded rivals and increasingly eager to highlight his military service as voting nears.

"In June, this was sort of like a death watch, and now people actually think he's got a shot," said David Winston, a Republican pollster who is not working for a presidential campaign this year.

McCain hasn't strayed far from the message he presented to voters in his 2000 campaign, offering himself up as a principled politician who will speak his mind without always testing the prevailing winds first.

This time around, however, McCain is explicitly selling himself as a man whose life and career were shaped by military experience -- culminating in 5 1/2 years in a Vietnamese prisoner-of-war camp -- that makes him uniquely qualified to lead the nation in a time of war. That emphasis is a direct attempt to build on what advisers see as his starkest contrast with former New York City mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and ex-Tennessee senator Fred Thompson.

"I think it's wonderful to have been mayor of a big city. I think it's great to have been a governor. I think it's great to have served eight years in the Senate," McCain told about 50 people who gathered at the Balsams hotel to hear him speak. "But I'll match my qualifications, my background, my experience, my knowledge and my vision. [That] is what I think qualifies me for their consideration.

"I have a background of all my life in the military, the last 24 years in national security issues," McCain emphasized in response to a question from Dave Spalding, 48, who owns a small business in Milford that recycles asphalt and concrete.


McCain has been right about some things, particularly the war in Iraq. He has also been spectacularly wrong about immigration reform, the gang of 14 on judges, and campaign finance reform. He is probably the only Republican who still thinks McCain-Feingold was a good idea. Those big three wrong things are why he is unlikely to get the Republican nomination. They may not be important to some people in New Hampshire, but if he somehow survives that contest, they will matter a lot to people in other states. Those are the main reasons he is behind in the polls. As far as Republicans are concerned the only big thing he has gotten right is the war in Iraq and that is where his media friends desert him. His chances remain remote.


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