The AP's Sidoti: "McCain calls himself an underdog. That may be an understatement. The GOP presidential candidate trails Democrat Barack Obama in polls, organization and money while trying to succeed a deeply unpopular fellow Republican in a year that favors Democrats. McCain also doesn't seem to have a coherent message let alone much of a strategy despite securing the nomination three months earlier than Obama." But: "Hope is far from lost: The election is still four months away. The national conventions and the presidential debates are upcoming. Conservative evangelical leaders skeptical of McCain are now coalescing around him. The race remains competitive. And, Obama's campaign is far from flawless."
McCain isn't just shaking up his campaign staff -- but his speech performance, reports the New York Times' Leibovich. But the one quote that caught our eye was this one by the once and future McCain adviser, Mike Murphy "I think the depressingly self-absorbed McCain campaign machine needs to get out of the way," said Mike Murphy, a longtime friend and media adviser who has no role in the current operation but who still talks to Mr. McCain every few days. "They need to just let McCain be McCain."
This doesn't sound like someone who is about to be brought on the campaign staff. More important parts of this story could offer clues as to what kind of convention we'll see from McCain. "Indeed, Mr. McCain and his advisers seem to be trying to present him as a kind of anti-Obama whose weaknesses as a political performer underscore his accessibility to regular voters. 'John doesn't ever want to be something that he is not,' Mr. Salter said, including trying to pass himself off as a larger-than-life figure on stage. 'There's nothing in there about him that wants to be rarefied.'"
Could this mean we'll see a convention that is the anti-Obama convention in every phase? That you'll see something more serious, maybe less exciting, but no less serious about the job?
Bill Kristol believes that Mike Murphy will soon join the Straight Talk Express. "[T]he full plan, as I understand it, was — and is — to have [Steve] Schmidt, a good operative and tactician, take over day-to-day operations at headquarters, while bringing Murphy on both to travel with McCain and as chief strategist. But McCain hesitated to carry out both steps of the plan at once, worried about an overload of turmoil. And Murphy's arrival would mean a fair amount of turmoil. The current McCain campaign is chock full of G.O.P. establishment types, many of whom aren't great fans of the irreverent Murphy."
Here's another McCain problem: How do you have message discipline while letting McCain by McCain? Can the two ideas co-exist? The Wall Street Journal tackles the question. "The McCain makeover involves a complex task: How to control a politician best known for ask-anything town-hall meetings and long, rambling conversations with reporters on his campaign bus -- and, now, on his campaign plane, dubbed the Straight Talk Express. A top adviser says they considered cutting back on those formats but concluded they couldn't. 'It's John McCain, it's his brand,' strategist Charlie Black said. 'The fact he is engaging with average citizens and with reporters is part of his brand.'"
McCain denied an incident with a Nicaraguan Sandinista brought up by Republican Sen. Thad Cochran. "His comments did not square with Cochran's detailed recollection of the alleged incident," the AP says. "Asked why Cochran raised the incident now, his spokeswoman, Margaret McPhillips, told The Associated Press on Wednesday: 'I think Sen. Cochran went in to as much detail Monday as is necessary to make the point that, though Sen. McCain has had problems with his temper, he has overcome them.'"
"Lorne Craner, 49, a former foreign policy aide to McCain who took part in the trip to Nicaragua, told The Associated Press that he doesn't recall the incident Cochran described. 'Honestly, if my boss had grabbed a foreign government official like that and lifted him up I would certainly remember that,' said Craner, who is president of the International Republican Institute, which McCain chairs."
"Obama got good reviews from some conservative quarters after his recent speech outlining a plan for building upon the faith-based initiative established by President Bush," the Los Angeles Times writes. "But John McCain got better news from the right, signs of a real push by conservative Christian leaders to coalesce on his behalf."
More than half of the Bush-Cheney '04 Florida pioneers have yet to send a dime to John McCain. Wow... But this may be a Jeb Bush problem, more than a George W. Bush problem. "Florida is hardly shunning the McCain campaign. Through May, McCain had raised more than $8.1-million from the Sunshine State, which is about $1-million less than Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton raised here, and $1-million more than Sen. Barack Obama, according to campaign finance reports. But those records do not include contributions of less than $200, a category of fundraising the Obama campaign has done especially well in. Obama's campaign says it raised $11.9-million from Florida through May, counting those small donations.
Speaking of attack ads on Obama, could Obama's audio recording from '95 of his book, Dreams from my Father, end up in attack ads? "In one excerpt from the audio book that Hewitt played on his show in March, Obama alters his voice to mimic Wright's and repeats passages from a sermon decrying a society 'where white folks' greed runs a world in need.' Later Obama says of Wright's preaching, 'I found the tears running down my cheeks.' Hewitt said that on his radio show he has been careful to play book clips in their entirety, not just in snippets that can give the wrong impression. It's possible that the audio clips could be used in political ads, but that's not his intention, he said."