November 18, 2007


McCain Stakes His Campaign on New Hampshire (Michael D. Shear and Juliet Eilperin, 11/18/07, Washington Post)

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.

Spalding, who goes by the nickname "Skippy" and was deer hunting in the North Country when he saw McCain's bus pass by Friday afternoon, said later he may support McCain. But he added that he is concerned that the senator is too far behind in the national polls to be considered a serious contender for the nomination.

"I am a McCain believer. I'm trying really hard to be a believer," Spalding said. "John McCain, he's been there. He's done that. He's a true patriot. But is he electable? I really hope that he is."

McCain's aides insist the calculus exists for victory. The candidate has brought the bulk of his limited resources to bear here. Even during the campaign's darkest days this summer, not one of his public supporters switched sides here, and his visits to the state far outnumber those to others hosting early contests.

If McCain won here, they say, money would pour in. (His 2000 campaign raised $1 million online in one night after defeating George W. Bush, even though Internet fundraising was almost literally unexplored territory at that time.) McCain would be on the covers of the most-read newspapers and magazines, and the cable networks would provide him around-the-clock coverage. And less than a week later, they say, he would translate that momentum into a win in Michigan.

After Mike Huckabee pricks the liberal Republican bubbles in IA, the Granite State will be Maverick's for the taking.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 18, 2007 6:27 AM
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