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McCain’s Guarded Optimism

I just got off a conference call with John McCain, and, interestingly, the Senator seemed more sober in his new frontrunner status than he did when I spoke with him after Mike Huckabee took Iowa. New Hampshire had always looked promising for McCain, after all; what lies ahead is a bit trickier—especially considering the near-uselessness of polling.

The Senator spoke of the “transcendent struggle” that faces us, and stressed that national security, particularly the fight against Islamist terror, remains most important. He predicted that by November we’d see enough success in Iraq to prove him right on the war and the surge. McCain credits his “no surrender” tour and his ability to beat down the Webb Amendment with getting his national security message across. Additionally, he feels that people are ceasing to think of his immigration plan as amnesty. (Undoubtedly, some contentions readers will take exception here.)

When asked about potential VP’s, he playfully floated Phil Gramm, but stressed that seriousness on national security was the most sought after quality. Concretely, McCain stated that he backs Senator Tom Coburn’s push for earmarks on wasteful spending and, if no other means could be employed, would support an executive order to make it happen.

Other than that, the Senator sees hard work ahead. He takes obvious pleasure in (and has a gift for) townhall meetings, which he’ll continue to hold throughout the campaign. John McCain has a strong belief in the power of local effort and its ability to turn things around in the eleventh hour. And he may be onto something. The one thing most pundits agree on today is that the late undecided voters played a major role in last night’s results.


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