In a just completed blogger call McCain, from Grand Rapids Michigan, sounded ebullient. He said he was "very pleased with the outcome last night" and this proved that "New Hampshire voters believe townhall meetings matter." He said there was a "long, long way to go" in the campaign but that he was "optimistic looking ahead." He explained that the Labor Day debate in Michigan and his No Surrender Tour were turning points in the campaign. He also offered that "No doubt illegal immigration has been the attack mode of Governor Romney." He then went on to say that former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and Joe Lieberman could vouch for his determination to close the borders. In response to Erik from RedState he echoed the NY Times call for an investigation of the hidden earmark for "Coconut Road." In response to my question about the NH exit polling indicating he is the preferred choice as commander in chief and that Romney's ad were "unfair," he answered that he did not know if "unfair" was the right term but he was certain that "voters began to tire of negative advertising particularly since he did the same thing in Iowa." He mentioned that he did one TV response ad quoting local media. He also stressed that the "main reason I'm running is because I have the knowledge and the background necessary to lead this country in two wars and the transcendent struggle[against terrorism]." He reeled off the list of current crisis including Pakistan, Kenya and the Iranian harassment of US naval vessels as evidence of the importance of foreign policy credentials. Asked about how he takes his campaign beyond NH, he noted that history had shown that whoever won 2 of the three races in NH, Iowa and SC was the eventual nominee and he was prepared with paid media and new money coming in to continue on. Jim Geraghty asked about Michigan. McCain noted that in 2000 he also won NH and that he had appeal to Independent voters but also to social conservatives and national security voters and had gotten endorsements from the Detroit Free Press and Detroit Times. In response to Soren Dayton he explained that he recognized Michigan was suffering high unemployment and would offer a program of lower taxes but also job retraining. On other fronts: 1) money is coming in over the internet in large amounts; 2) it will be a "very tough race" for the GOP in the fall and they will have to recover the "trust and confidence' of the American people; and 3) "he is optimistic but not that optimistic" to start selecting a VP although national security credentials will be key. ( He was careful to point out that he enjoyed the counsel of tax cutter/reformer Phil Gramm.) Asked about Mike Huckabee he said that he had "come across as a very decent individual" and had been helped by his debate performances. He said he was "likable" and although they had differences especially on the fair tax he was confident it would be a respectful contest if it got down to the two of them. He declined to specifically criticize his foreign policy views, instead saying that all of the contenders lacked McCain's expertise In short, this was a confident and feisty McCain who declined repeatedly to dispute bloggers who called him "the frontrunner."
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