Senator McCain looks ahead

John McCain held a blogger call today. We have participated in these calls regularly, though bad times, ok times, and now good times. It speaks well of McCain that he didn’t sound dramatically different today, as the apparent front-runner, than he sounded back in July when he was written off as politically dead.
Here are a few highlights:
McCain believes his comeback in New Hampshire was fueled by his townhall meetings (including his “straight talk”) and by the leadership he provided in the Senate last September in beating back defeatist legislation from the Democrats. And, naturally, he gives great credit to the people of New Hampshire.
McCain expects a tough fight in Michigan which is “one of Governor Romney’s home [states].” He is encouraged however by the support he’s picked up from people like Frank Keating, Tom Ridge, and Joe Lieberman. For example, he believes that Ridge, as former head of the Homeland Security bureaucracy, adds credibility to his claim that he doesn’t suupport amnesty, and thus helps deflect Romney’s main line of attack.
McCain expressed support for Sen. Coburn’s latest attack on earmarks. At that point, McCain had to break away from the bloggers to calm down Lindsey Graham, who was sitting next to him and had apparently misunderstood McCain’s answer. McCain said that traveling with Graham is difficult because he’s “unstable” and requires a translator. If only McCain hadn’t been joking.
McCain criticized Romney again for his “negativity.” He acknowledged that “politics ain’t beanbag” but felt that voters tired of Romney’s negativity both in Iowa and New Hampshire. It got to the point, McCain said, that he stopped turning on the television. However, he concluded that Romney’s attacks did not exceed the boundaries of “tough campaigning.”
McCain hopes to suceed in Michigan by appealing to independent voters, national security voters, and social conservatives (good luck with the latter group with Huckabee competing). He is also pleased about having picked up the endorsements of the two big Detroit newspapers, and expects to pick up more. It sounds like the New Hampshire formula (and why not), coupled with special sensitivity to Michigan’s economic problems. Joe Lieberman will also be putting in an appearance with McCain in Michigan on Monday.
McCain says the money is now coming in “strong.” It’s mostly coming via the internet, though he will be holding some fundraisers.
McCain believes the winning Republican message consists of restoring public confidence, mainly by stopping wasteful spending, and being strong on national security. He believes that by November things well be going well enough in Iraq to prove beyond doubt that he was right and Senators Clinton and Obama were wrong. He finds the Democratic “change” message lacking in specifics and thus ultimately not compelling.
McCain continues to speak well of Mike Huckabee. He considers Huckabee a “decent individual” and a “formidable” opponent, given his skill in debates. McCain anticipates that “if it gets to it,” he and Huckabee will have a “respectful debate” with no personal attacks. McCain disagrees with some of Huckabee’s ideas, particularly the “fair tax.” On national security, he doesn’t consider Huckabee much different than his other opponents (I guess he hasn’t been paying enough attention). Like the others, McCain says, Huckabee can’t match his experience.
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