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The Big Race


I've been hearing it quietly for weeks.

GOP insiders worried about soon-to-be presidential nominee Senator John McCain's game plan to win the White House. As David Paul Kuhn put it in a recent POLITICO article (July 1): "Top GOP officials, frustrated by what they view as inconsistent messaging, sluggish fundraising and an organization that is too slow to take shape, are growing increasingly uneasy about the direction of the McCain presidential campaign."

I guess the candidate must have some problems and questions too, with the announcement being made just as this column was being written that the campaign is changing its day-to-day leadership. Or is it? Within mere hours after the announcement, an article by Jonathan Martin of POLITICO  (July 2) says there are conflicting accounts of exactly who will be or is doing what in the campaign going forward. Maybe that will clear itself up pretty quickly and McCain will strike gold like he did (one year ago to the day) when he had another staff shakeup that kept his campaign alive and ultimately led it towards winning the GOP nomination.

Meanwhile, the "gotcha-factor" for the presidential candidates continues to be nothing short of amazing, especially involving their surrogates.

Here's an example: Senator Obama begins an effort to better define himself and his patriotism, but instead has to spend time disassociating from remarks made on one of the Sunday talk shows (FACE THE NATION) by one of his representatives, former General and Presidential candidate Wesley Clark. He said Senator McCain getting shot down and held as a POW is not a strong qualification to be president.

Here's an example for Senator McCain: he takes a trip overseas to Columbia and Mexico to show off his foreign policy expertise (as compared to Obama), only to have to defend himself from reports from a Republican colleague in the U.S. Senate (Thad Cochran of Mississippi) that, according to an Associated Press story (July 2),  McCain "once roughed up as associate of Nicaraguan President Daniel Oretga on a diplomatic mission in 1987...grabbing the Ortega associate by his shirt collar and lifting him out of his chair." McCain says: "It's simply not true," but you can see the anger management issues coming up all over again for the GOP candidate.

The destination of these foreign trips also seemed a bit strange to me. How will touting free-trade in Columbia help McCain pick up white blue collar votes in the U.S. especially given the continued strong opposition to such treaties in the wake of NAFTA? And won't McCain going to Mexico just reignite concerns among the conservative Republican base that he is secretly trying to resurrect his immigration reform legislation that many of them see as "amnesty" for illegal aliens? I have been getting such e-mails from conservative groups for weeks, even before this trip was taken.    

Both candidates have been caught up by issues surrounding housing. Senator McCain's wife, Cindy, apparently had to move quickly to pay some back taxes owed on a condo she owns where an elderly aunt lives. Media reports said the taxes had not been paid in four years. Meanwhile, Obama is trying to counter criticisms that he may have gotten some kind of sweetheart deal on his interest rates and loan when he bought a house in Chicago a few years back (a charge being leveled at several elected officials in the recent days in the wake of the sub-prime mortgage and foreclosure crisis).

The ultimate surrogates, our future First Ladies, are also coming under more intense scrutiny. Besides Cindy McCain's back-taxes issue a new poll reported by AP reporter Alan Fram (July 2) says about the public "it's got a question about Cindy McCain: Who is she?" As for Michelle Obama, the story about the poll taken by the Associated Press and Yahoo News says: "The public hasn't taken to Michelle Obama yet, especially white." Bottom line, according to the story, "While the two women are about equally liked, Michelle Obama is twice as disliked as Cindy McCain."

But the AP/Yahoo polls are not all negative for the Obama camp. A question asking the public who they would rather have as a guest at their backyard cookout found Obama the choice over John McCain 52% to 45% (remember how important that "who would you rather have a beer with" question was between Gore and Bush in 2000).

As for the national polls, Obama has moved back out and is sustaining a 5% lead over McCain in the latest Gallup daily tracking survey. Not long ago, McCain had pulled even for a few days.

Finally, it was interesting to note Obama endorsing the idea of increased "faith-based" social service programs supported by federal dollars. Democrats used to constantly criticize President Bush for his efforts in this area, and I am sure some in the Democratic base still feel that way. But Obama likely has more room to move with his base than McCain does, and this effort to embrace "faith based" program not only makes some sense given Obama personal background, it helps position him closer to the political mainstream as campaign continues.    

Happy 4th of July! 

NewsChannel 5 thanks Pat Nolan for providing this column every week. Mr. Nolan's commentary reflects his own opinions, not those of the NewsChannel 5 Network.  Comments about Capitol View should be sent to Pat Nolan directly via email at .

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