Will McCain’s Foreign-Policy Cred Take Him to the White House?

McCain
It might be Democrats taking from behind. Photo: Getty Images

Conventional wisdom says the political climate this year is perfect for a Democratic candidate — think 68 degrees, sunny, and with a cool breeze (kind of like today, actually). And yet, here we are talking about McCain's path to victory. Can he win California? Can he win over the voters that Republicans usually ignore as if they were Reverend Wright proffering a hug? The fact that we're asking these questions has a lot to do with McCain's national-security and foreign-policy credentials, but, at the same time, McCain's actual foreign policy is murky, and he's prone to supporting the Democrats' claims that his presidency would be like another Bush term.

• Roger Simon writes that McCain's chances in California are slim, but that a win is possible. Though a pro-life candidate probably can't take the state, McCain might find an edge by exploiting the issue of driver's licenses for illegal immigrants, which Californians oppose. [Politico]

• John Dickerson reports on McCain's plan to campaign in areas that usually vote Democratic: inner cities, African-American sections of the South, and poor Appalachia. There's hope people will get a sense of McCain's character, even if they disagree with him. But it will only work if it's a sustained effort and not merely a short-lived stunt, Dickerson writes. [Slate]

• John J. Pitney speculates on whether some in the GOP think they would be better off if McCain loses. They might be thinking that, given that the party not in power usually wins seats in the midterm elections, it would be better for McCain to lose for them to have a chance at winning back the House. Pitney then explains why this would be an extremely risky and probably unwise strategy. [National Review]

• Chuck Todd believes that for McCain to win, he needs the Democrats to choose a nominee as soon as possible, because he'll have more time to recover from the inevitable bounce his opponent receives. Not only that, but McCain's campaign will be markedly different depending on whom he runs against, and it would help him to be able to focus on one message, instead of two, as he's doing now. Against Clinton, he'd be the breath of fresh air, but against Obama he'd be the experienced, "steady hand in uncertain times." [MSNBC]

• Jonathan Martin notes that Democratic polls are showing that much of McCain's current general-election appeal can be chalked up to his national-security advantage. [Politico]

• Elisabeth Bumiller and Larry Rohter explore the push and pull, and McCain's foreign-policy leanings, between two competing conservative groups: the foreign-policy pragmatists, who see Iraq as a mistake, and the neoconservatives, who whole-heartedly promoted the war and still do. The pragmatists are worried that because McCain isn't actually as "fully formed" on foreign policy as he seems, he's especially susceptible to neoconservative influence. [NYT]

• Meanwhile, Larry Rohter reports that Obama's campaign is trying to steal away McCain's edge by claiming that their candidate has a better foreign-policy understanding than either of his opponents. McCain's campaign offers a "sharp, mocking response." [NYT]

• Craig Crawford says that McCain's refusal yesterday to rule out preemptive war was another example of his tendency to say what he thinks, regardless of how impolitic it may be. And appearing to make the Bush Doctrine permanent is rather impolitic. [CQ Politics] —Dan Amira

For a complete and regularly updated guide to presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain — from First Love to Most Embarrassing Gaffe — read the 2008 Electopedia.