Pure Horserace: Border Blues?

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., center, accompanied by Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., left, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., right, discusses immigration reform legislation during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 17, 2007.
AP Photo/Dennis Cook
Good news for John McCain: The Iraq war, for the moment, isn't the top political issue in the news.

Bad news for John McCain: It's been replaced by immigration. Thanks to a bill with his name on it — right next to Ted Kennedy's.

The deal between a bipartisan group of senators and the White House, much of it based on the immigration overhaul bill known as McCain-Kennedy, may not become law, but even the chance of progress has left many conservatives incensed. The day after the deal, the web site of National Review, a popular magazine among conservatives, had no less than nine articles criticizing the legislation.

As the bill winds its way through Congress, McCain will likely face questions and will be able to take no other position than to defend the legislation — after all, he's its top Republican sponsor. While many GOP voters agree with his defense of President Bush's strategy in Iraq, he will have far fewer sympathetic ears listening to him when the topic turns to immigration. McCain, like Bush, favors a policy that creates a guest worker program and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the country — a position that is anathema to many Republicans, who deride it as amnesty for law-breakers.

But there's a lot more here that could rankle conservatives who are already suspicious of McCain. The group of senators involved will resurrect memories of the "Gang of 14" that included McCain and subverted an effort in 2006 by Republican leaders in the Senate to end filibusters of judicial nominees. Nor will McCain win any votes for being on same side as Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat who is one of the right's chief villains.

While McCain will be the candidate most directly affected by the deal, he won't be the only one to feel an impact. Rudy Giuliani has endorsed an immigration policy similar to that backed by McCain.

Who benefits? Probably Mitt Romney, who directly criticized the McCain-Kennedy bill in Monday's GOP presidential candidate debate and said the deal struck on Thursday was "the wrong approach," adding that it "falls short of the actions needed to both solve our country's illegal immigration problem and also strengthen our legal immigration system."

And who's the most frustrated? We're guessing Reps. Tom Tancredo and Duncan Hunter, who have been sounding the alarm to conservatives on immigration for years but will probably see their thunder stolen by Romney, a far more viable candidate. — David Miller

President Bush, Take Note: Dismal approval ratings? An administration beset by scandal? It sounds like a two-sentence summary of George W. Bush's second term — but it could also apply to another Republican, Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher. In September 2005, Fletcher's approval rating stood at 39 percent after he and 28 other officials in his administration were charged with crimes related to state hiring practices.

Many wrote Fletcher off. He drew two opponents for his party's nomination in this year's governor's race, including Rep. Anne Northup. But since then, he has made a comeback. According to a poll in the Louisville Courier-Journal, Fletcher is favored to win next Tuesday's Republican primary. He's also seen his overall approval rating rebound to 47 percent — not overwhelming, but still a number Bush might envy right now.

Fletcher could still face defeat in the November general election, but he has a solid chance of being re-elected, something few would have said in late 2005. So perhaps the president can look to Kentucky — not for advice on being re-elected, of course, but for guidance on how to salvage his legacy. — David Miller

All Right Rudy, Your Time's Running Out: If the $6 million raised, the debate appearance and commercials didn't tip you off, Bill Richardson wants to make sure you know he's really, really, running for president. He's doing that with an "official" kickoff in California on Monday, The Associated Press reports.

Until now, Richardson's campaign had been described as an "exploratory committee," a term that has no actual legal significance. In recent history, it's become common practice for presidential candidates to "test the waters," even though, in reality, they took a head-first plunge before the spring thaw.

After Richardson makes his announcement on Monday, every major presidential candidate will have entered the race — unofficially and officially — except for the Republican front-runner, Rudy Giuliani.

Giuliani has said he's going to officially announce at some point, but has yet to set a date or offer other information. No one is questioning Giuliani's intentions because he hasn't held a news conference with lots of bunting and "Giuliani In '08" signs. But it would be nice if he could just get it out of the way and put the "exploratory committee" silliness to rest. Until 2012, that is. — David Miller

Editor's Note: Pure Horserace is a daily update of political news as interpreted by the political observers at CBSNews.com. Click here to sign up for the e-mail version.

By David Miller