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Sen. John McCain addresses the National Rifle Association meeting, an appearance that could alienate independent voters his party is hoping to court.
Jim VandeHei of Politico.com says the biggest story coming off the presidential campaigns this month doesn't feature the Democratic rivals. The most interesting takeaway, he says, is the sorry state of the Republican Party and its leaders' weary resolution to anoint Sen. John McCain as savior.
VandeHei says the GOP is in the worst shape with voters that the party has seen in more than 30 years. The editor spent time recently with Republican governors, looking to preview their strategy for the presidential campaign. "It's clear they feel that the one ace in the hole that they still hold is national security and fighting terrorism," VandeHei says.
And who is the face on that ace? It's McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee known as much for his status as a Vietnam War hero as he is for his independent streak and willingness to buck party lines.
VandeHei says conservative Republicans who dismissed McCain as not Republican enough are now hoping he can reinvent — and reinvigorate — the party. Even if they won't much like the results.
For evidence of the party's dismal standing, VandeHei points to the loss to Democrats of the deeply conservative, reliably Republican seat in northern Mississippi's 1st Congressional District.
"Under no circumstances should a Republican lose that seat," VandeHei says. "The Republican brand is as damaged as I can recall."