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BROWNBACK: "I like my position. I like my bracket." So said the Kansas senator and GOP presidential candidate at yesterday's Christian Science Monitor breakfast, reports NBC's Carrie Dann. Brownback said he's optimistic about his run despite the seeming impossibility of cracking the hard top-tier ceiling above him. "I'm the tortoise in the race," he chuckled, saying that he's hoping to step into the void left by GOP frontrunners' "clear disconnect" with conservative voters on issues like abortion and fiscal responsibility.

On Iraq, Brownback said he's in "preliminary discussions" with Democrat and oh-eight contender Joe Biden to introduce a resolution in favor of a three-way partitioning of the country. Asked about immigration reform, he accused Democrats of "letting the system languish" by shirking the responsibility of taking up the issue in earnest.

MCCAIN: USA Today writes, "Arizona Sen. John McCain returned Wednesday to the state that made him the surprise upstart of the 2000 presidential campaign, this time as a candidate faced with explaining why he's not the favorite for next year's Republican nomination."

The New York Times emphasizes McCain's thinly veiled critique of the Bush administration" yesterday. "Mr. McCain lamented the 'many mistakes' in Iraq, alluded to Hurricane Katrina and the government's failure to 'rescue the infirm from a hospital with no electricity,' criticized 'substandard care and indifference for our wounded veterans' and called for reining in what he termed wasteful federal spending over six years of Republican rule. And in an interview with Larry King taped in a conference room at a Concord hotel Wednesday afternoon, he said he thought Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzalez should resign 'out of loyalty' to President Bush.'"

The Washington Post's Kurtz asks the question that actually dogs analysts more than anything else regarding McCain: Is the media's love affair with McCain really over or should we begin to sniff out a "comeback kid" storyline soon?

The Club for Growth, no fan of McCain, decided to use the senator's announcement as an opportunity to hit him on his tax record. Said the Club in a release: "As John McCain announced his presidential candidacy for the umpteenth time today, the Club for Growth called upon John McCain to renounce his votes against the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts and acknowledge the important role the tax cuts have played in stimulating the economy."