NBC's Carrie Dann and Domenico Montanaro
When the McCain camp hastily scheduled a press conference in Los Angeles yesterday, they were likely hoping to land his second offensive punch of the day, this time at Clinton's hefty earmark load in the latest Defense Appropiations bill. But after the Senator delivered his quick (dare we say "half-hearted"?) jab at Clinton's alleged pork barreling, it was the press that came out swinging. McCain had to defend his attack on rival Mitt Romney earlier in the day, his new attacking posture and his lackluster showing in the polls.
"My understanding is that Governor Romney had changed his statement," McCain said of comments Romney made on abortion rights at a 2005 event. McCain's campaign circulated a video of Romney meant to portray the former governor as a right-to-life flip-flopper. "I think that's legitimate, because I think it has to do with the confidence of the voters in people who are seeking their support to be President of the United States."
McCain's response prompted reporters to ask if today's full-court press constitutes a change in style for the embattled Senator, but he demurred. "We're going to run a positive, strong campaign," he insisted, adding that the combative style that characterized his 2000 run should be considered water under the bridge. "I've had reconciliation with everybody from the president on down. I'm not the kind of person who holds grudges, nor will I ever."
When asked if his poor poll numbers were reversible, McCain delivered his standard, "I will not be driven by polling numbers. I will be driven by principle." Fair enough.
"There's a poll out today where I'm at 20 percent, Giuliani's at 24, which is where it's been all along," McCain said.
Really? McCain has real problems nationally. Every major poll released this month shows him down, and by more than 4 points. (see details below)
Then McCain added, "The majority of polls are showing we're ahead in Iowa."
Not quite true. McCain has done better in Iowa with a May American Research Group poll showing him ahead by 2 points and most others showing him within the margin of error.
In New Hampshire, which he didn't bring up, most polls show him down 8 to 11 points. One poll from May did show him with a 7-point lead.
Quinnipiac: Giuliani 27, McCain 15
LA Times/Bloomberg: Giuliani 27, Fred Thompson 21, McCain 12%
Fox News: Giuliani 22, McCain 15
AP/Ipsos: Giuliani 27, McCain 19
USA Today/Gallup: Giuliani 32, McCain 19
McLaughlin & Assoc.: Giuliani 24, McCain 18%.
American Research Group: McCain 25, Giuliani 23
Strategic Vision: Romney 20, Giuliani 18, McCain 16
Des Moines Register: Romney 30, McCain 18
Research 2000: McCain 18, Giuliani 17, Romney 16.
CNN/WMUR: Romney 28, Giuliani & McCain 20
Mason-Dixon: Romney 27, McCain 16
Franklin Pierce/WBZ: Romney 27, Giuliani 18, McCain 17
American Research Group: McCain 30, Romney 23