McCain Riding Momentum in Cali and Northeast

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Feb 05, 2008 8:31 AM
McCain was in Romney's backyard yesterday for a rally whose psychological benefit likely didn't warrant the valuable time spent on it:

When it came time for questions, all anyone wanted to know was what is he doing in Boston? One reporter said Romney was "perturbed" that McCain was campaigning in Massachusetts today. McCain responded that he couldn't account for Romney's reaction, but that Romney was welcome to campaign in Arizona. When pressed on his bold prediction last week that he would seal the nomination on Tuesday, McCain backtracked-"I am not predicting that. I am not predicting that. I am guardedly confident that we can do well, but I am predicting nothing....we'll be campaigning all the way until the polls close tomorrow night, I don't think that's predicting victory." Well, yes, he is, but why in Massachusetts, which isn't a particularly tight race, instead of California, where some last minute stops might make a big difference?

One theory: McCain really doesn't like Romney, and as it became clear last week that McCain would almost certainly secure the nomination on Tuesday, this was to be a parting slap in the face. Except today, while McCain is still a heavy favorite, the result in California looks far from certain and there's a real possibility this race will continue past tomorrow's contest. It's hard to see how this was a smart move, but it was pure McCain--inspiring, audacious, and a bit reckless.

McCain's scheduled to be in San Diego today, and he's touting his newfound religion on border security on California radio:

Meanwhile, McCain adopted a tough tone on illegal immigration in a radio ad airing in Southern California. The ad appeared to be aimed at countering Romney's criticism of his conservative credentials and his stance backing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, an issue that has strong resonance with Republican voters in the state.

"I've listened and learned," McCain said in the ad. "As president, I'll hire new border guards, build a fence, ask governors to certify that their borders are secure. The two million people who have committed crimes will be deported immediately.

"No one will be rewarded for illegal behavior. They'll go to the back of the line, pay fines and learn English. For those already in our country, there will be no special privileges," McCain said.

Update: The story of the McCain comeback:

He began his resurgence in an unexpected way—with a visit to Iraq over the 4th of July weekend. In many ways, that trip was a turning point for McCain, who points to it as the moment that galvanized him to keep on the presidential track.

He watched as 688 young men and women re-enlisted and 130 service personnel became naturalized citizens. Two empty chairs represented soldiers who'd died before they could become U.S. citizens. Himself a former prisoner of war, McCain gave an emotional address, and about 2,000 servicemen and women waited to shake his hand.

Back in the U.S., he began enlisting his friends. "He called and said, 'What do you think?' I said, 'It's a hell of a mess,' " recalled Orson Swindle, his former cellmate in North Vietnam who has helped to organize veterans' support.

McCain realized he'd allowed his campaign to spend with the same kind of abandon he routinely denounced in the federal government. The swank $9,000-a-day bus with the flat-screen television screens gave way to one with an '80s dcor that rattled and sputtered but cost just $9,000 a month.

A bill for $900 worth of doughnuts gave way to a ban on what had always been a trademark of the McCain bus and a staple of the senator's diet. The campaign payroll was slashed from 280 people that summer to about 90. John Weaver, McCain's longtime strategist, departed; the remaining senior advisers worked without pay.

Campaign events often meant speaking at Rotary Club or Chamber of Commerce lunches, which cost no money to arrange. McCain began flying commercial and carrying his own bags.