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McCain’s New Strategy

At a rally this evening in the New Orleans suburb of Kenner, La., the Associated Press is reporting that Sen. McCain will unveil a new campaign strategy that will seek to wrestle the mantle of change from the Obama campaign. According to the article, McCain will highlight his record of working with Democrats and his reputation as a government reformer, and will position himself as an agent of actual change in opposition to the lofty rhetoric of the Democratic front-runner:

The Republican nominee-in-waiting plans to draw contrasts with Obama on a range of issues and argue that the Democrat offers the wrong kind of change while he offers the right kind. An advertising campaign is expected to reinforce that message in the coming weeks.

Previewing his remarks, McCain told reporters on his campaign bus in Nashville, Tenn.: "The message is change. It’s real change. I think it’s clear I have a record of working across the aisle. does not. I think it’s my record of reform and efforts to change the way we do business in Washington. He has the most liberal voting record of any senator in the ."

Of course, while this strategy is clearly designed to court independent voters, it will be interesting to see how it plays with conservatives. As my colleague Sridhar Pappu recently illustrated, McCain has had a hard time courting the conservative base of the Republican Party. By focusing on the elements of his reputation the base hates most, i.e. reaching out to Democrats and championing issues like campaign finance reform and embryonic stem cell research, McCain runs the risk of alienating conservatives further.

Perhaps most tellingly, even conservatives are predicting stormy seas ahead. As Jonah Goldberg opines in this morning’s USA Today:

While Barack Obama is surprisingly weak given all of the Democrats’ advantages, the smart money remains that the Democrats will capture the White House and expand their majorities in Congress considerably.

The issue climate is arguably even worse. From Social Security to health care to the environment, Democrats have the wind at their backs. If Obama continued to run from the left and won in November, Democrats would be able to claim the biggest mandate for liberalism since 1964.

Finally, amid widespread speculation that Obama may officially secure the Democratic nomination today, following the Democratic primaries in Montana and South Dakota, the senator from Illinois will also likely enjoy a bump in the polls. However, McCain can take some comfort in a Gallup poll released yesterday, which found Sen. Hillary Clinton is a slightly stronger candidate in a matchup with McCain, and the Obama-McCain matchup is a dead heat, with both candidates favored by 46 percent of respondents. With the campaign set to start in earnest, the next few weeks could prove the most interesting yet.

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