Pure Horserace: John McCain's Bad Day

U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., right, hugs Gabriela Pacheco, 22, after speaking in support of the immigration bill being debated in Congress, Monday, June 4, 2007, during an appearance before the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce in Coral Gables, Fla. Pacheco's parents and two sisters are undocumented immigrants living in Miami, and are being deported to their home country of Ecuador. Pacheco is an American citizen and is attending college in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

When the immigration reform bill stalled in the Senate yesterday, President Bush may have been the most disappointed, having lost a chance at adding a signature domestic achievement to his legacy. Whether there will be a chance to salvage the effort is unclear — and so is the impact of all this on the presidential race.

John McCain couldn't have been happy seeing the bill he co-sponsored hung up, maybe never to be resurrected. Throughout debates and testy campaign exchanges with his GOP rivals, McCain never wavered in his support for this particular reform. When party activists cried "amnesty," McCain countered with impassioned arguments refuting them. When he was lumped in with fellow co-sponsor Ted Kennedy, he didn't run away.

In some ways, a legislative victory would have been a political win for the straight-talker. Those primary voters most unhappy with his position on immigration are equally angry with the Arizona senator on other issues. Those were votes he was not going to win anyway. But an immigration reform law with his name on it might have helped bolster his argument that he alone among GOP hopefuls has the experience to get things done — to lead. At the very least, his "straight talk" reputation would be bolstered.

One could argue that McCain is best served by the current circumstances because it may take some of the focus off of the immigration issue that has put him on the opposite side of a large part of his party. But that's looking at McCain's world through rose-colored glasses. Immigration, particularly border control, isn't a concern that will fade away just because nothing is done about it — and those Republicans who put this issue at the top of their concerns won't soon forget McCain's position. Those feelings will linger.

So McCain is seemingly left holding the cup, having advocated passionately for legislation that has gone nowhere and stepping into a bitter divide in the process. On this issue, his campaign is reduced to hoping that the Senate can find some way to resurrect the bill in some way, or that voters will forget about it — neither likely scenarios at the moment. Vaughn Ververs


Jumping The Gun On Giuliani? On Thursday, Democrat John Edwards outlined his national security plan, once again giving him the opportunity to express his view that the Bush administration's war on terror is nothing more than a "bumper sticker" slogan and has actually been ineffective in keeping America safe.

He also had the opportunity to respond to Rudy Giuliani, who has based much of his campaign on national security and has criticized Edwards' characterization of the war on terror. "If Mayor Giuliani believes that what President Bush has done is good and wants to embrace it and run a campaign for the presidency saying 'I will give you four more years of what this president has given you,' he's allowed to do that," Edwards said. "He'll never be elected president of the United States, but he's allowed to do that."

Giuliani communications director Katie Levinson fired back. "We are glad to see Rudy's criticism of the Democrats' not understanding the terrorists' war on us is starting to register with them," she said in a statement. "John Edwards' track record of predicting election outcomes speaks for itself."

Getting into a tit-for-tat with the Republican front-runner is likely to energize Edwards' supporters and draw more attention to his campaign, which continues to run in third place in national polls of Democrats. But wouldn't his energy be better spent on tackling the front-runner in his own party, Hillary Clinton?

Clinton even provided Edwards with an opening at Sunday's debate in New Hampshire with her claim that the United States is safer than it was on Sept. 11, 2001 — a claim also made by the Bush administration but disputed by many Democrats who feel the White House's foreign policy and the war in Iraq have only engendered more anger toward the U.S. and allowed terrorist organizations to rally people to their cause.

Yet Edwards didn't respond to that claim at the debate and has only obliquely referred to it since, saving his most direct barbs for Giuliani. In fact, Giuliani could benefit from the spat — one way to project the image of front-runner is to attack the other party instead of those in your own. It's a tactic both Clinton and Giuliani have used lately. — David Miller


A Peek Inside Thompson's Fundraising: The New York Sun has some details on the early Internet fundraising for Fred Thompson's quasi-official campaign, reporting that the effort raised more than $352,000 in the first 48 hours after launching Imwithfred.com.

That's not a bad beginning, but Thompson's campaign starts out in a hole compared with other Republicans who've already raked in tens of millions. Then again, Thompson's "testing the waters" committee won't have to reveal real numbers until the third-quarter deadline in September, something that could help it stay under the radar and keep all of us guessing. Vaughn Ververs


OK Everyone, Take A Deep Breath: That's the advice from veteran Republican consultant Mike Murphy, who tells CBS News' Brian Goldsmith in this week's edition of Political Players that the presidential race hasn't really even gotten going yet. "The voters are on a much different timetable than the elite media and the political elite that's currently are having so much fun with this," Murphy says, adding that 90 percent of the campaign won't happen until next January.

It's an important point for all of us to remember. After all, four years ago at this time, Howard Dean was surging and John Kerry appeared to be all but done as a candidate. That dynamic held virtually until the eve of the Iowa caucuses, where Kerry stormed in to basically claim the nomination. Still, this is an unusual campaign season. Voters may be on a different timetable — but even that one is likely to be front-loaded.


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By Vaughn Ververs and David Miller
  • David Miller

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