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McCain Cometh

The irrepressible John McCain is stealing the spotlight again.

Defeated in the primaries but still looking for national attention, McCain set out for the Republican convention in a campaign-style bus caravan.

Even though he is now campaigning for his former rival George W. Bush, McCain is keeping a schedule fit for a candidate.

After a planned rolling press conference from Washington to Philadelphia, the Arizona Senator will campaign for a congressional candidate, speak at a rival "shadow convention," address his delegates, and finally speak to the real GOP convention in prime time.

As he boarded his bus in Arlington, V.A. Saturday, McCain said the trip would not be bittersweet, despite his loss to Bush last winter.

"We had a great time. This will remind us of what a great time we had," McCain said.

And, all of his campaign efforts, he said, are to help Bush.

"There's certainly not any intention" of stealing the limelight from Bush, McCain said Wednesday. "I've talked with Governor Bush and he's pleased with what I'm doing."

After the convention, McCain plans to join Bush on a campaign swing through the West, hosting Bush and his wife, Laura, for a night at McCain's ranch near Sedona, Ariz.

McCain was Bush's toughest competitor in the GOP primaries, drawing independent-minded voters with calls for trimming the influence of money in politics.

McCain won seven primaries and had 231 delegates before he ended his presidential bid in March. Some of those delegates have been replaced by Bush supporters or have already pledged themselves to Bush, and McCain plans to tell his remaining delegates at a Sunday afternoon meeting to support Bush.

"Anyone who is missing from my speech to them will lose their (convention) credentials," McCain added jokingly.

First on the agenda Saturday afternoon is a town-hall campaign event with Pennsylvania state Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, a Republican trying to displace Democratic Rep. Joseph Hoeffel.

"I think he (McCain) is very well liked in this suburban district," said Greenleaf, who will be making his fourth campaign appearance with McCain.

Before McCain meets with his delegates Sunday, he will address the shadow convention organized by satirists, campaign finance reform advocates and others. While some Republicans grumble that speaking there is giving aid and comfort to the enemy, McCain said he will try to win more voters for Bush.

"You win elections by winning the center," McCain said.

Also on tap for Sunday: an interview on CBS News' Face the Nation, a speech to a pro-Israel group and a book signing for his best-selling autobiography, which chronicles the five years he spent as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

Monday's events include an appearance on MTV and a news conference with Rep. J.C. Watts, R-Okla.

Tuesday night, McCain will address the convention at 10:30 p.m. Eastern time.

Some observers thik that, despite his denials, McCain is laying the groundwork for a presidential run in 2004, should Bush lose this year.

"He's not acting like a candidate, he is a candidate," said University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato.

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