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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Politics. John McCain is in Orlando, Florida, at the National Urban League Annual Conference today. Here's some of what he had to say.

(Soundbite of speech)

Senator JOHN MCCAIN (Republican, Arizona; 2008 Presumptive Republican Presidential Nominee): Equal employment opportunity is set firmly down in law, but with jobs becoming scarcer, and more than 400,000 Americans thrown out of work just this year, that can amount to an equal share of diminished opportunity.

CHADWICK: Senator Obama is going to speak there tomorrow. NPR news analyst, Juan Williams, is back for his regular Friday visit. Juan, hello again.

JUAN WILLIAMS: Hi, Alex.

CHADWICK: So, this escalation of sniping this week between the McCain campaign and the Obama campaign, but also between Senator McCain's people and some outside GOP strategists, what do you make of all this?

WILLIAMS: The thing about the conflict between Obama and McCain's campaign here really was about race, and it was interesting - it seemed to me to be a sort of preemptory strike on the part of the McCain people to say to Obama, if you're going to say that we're going to attack you on the basis that you're - supposedly the Republicans are scaring people, supposedly - this is to quote Obama, I don't look like anybody on the five-dollar bill, any of the previous presidents - well, then we're going to say that you're playing the race card, and we're going to appeal to people who are offended by the idea that you would bring race into the conversation.

Obama, of course, fears that that's exactly what McCain will do. But I think, what you've got to see is the background here, Alex, and the background is that McCain's people are, right now, wanting to make sure that their candidate is on the offensive, and they feel for too long he's been on the defensive. So, you're going to see him take offensive steps. For example, in the speech at the Urban League and elsewhere, Senator McCain's been talking about affirmative action. Previously, he's been a supporter - or opponent of affirmative action. Now, suddenly, he's saying, you know, wait a second, there are limits to what can be done.

CHADWICK: Juan, you do have both candidates in Florida today and Senator Obama there tomorrow. The state plainly matters to both of them. It's very close, maybe closer than the Democrats had expected.

WILLIAMS: Much closer. Much closer, in fact, if you look at the RealClearPolitics average right now, and this is through the end of July, what you get is about 46-45 with Senator McCain holding a half-a-percentage-point lead, which is, you know - I think everybody would be stunned in political circles that Senator McCain would be out front in the state of Florida. But it's a big advantage for him if you look at the electoral map, because Florida is key. And it puts less pressure on McCain, then, in some of those Midwestern states that seem to be critical if you would assume that Florida was in Barack Obama's pocket.

CHADWICK: Let me just raise the name of Senator Clinton, if I may. A couple of her backers said this week that they are folding their campaign to have her nominated as vice president on Mr. Obama's ticket, because they don't think there's any chance of that anymore.

WILLIAMS: I think that's about right. But it's just so counterintuitive to people who are inside politics. It leaves them scratching their heads a little bit because of all the people who could be on the Obama ticket, only one bumps up the numbers for Senator Obama, and that's Hillary Clinton. She literally pushes him over 50 percent, which is what you need. You need to get more than 50 percent of the vote to win. She pushes him over by about three to five percentage points if she's on the ticket. Everybody else is pretty much a wash.

The big talk this week has been about Virginia Governor Tim Kaine. You know, he'll help with Virginia and possibly might - if you win Virginia, that's a big difference, but it's not a game breaker in the way that Senator Clinton could make a huge difference nationwide. So, - but I think, in terms of the Clinton camp, I'm hearing exactly what you're hearing, is that they don't have any hope any longer that she will be the number two, that she'll be the running mate.

CHADWICK: Best political conversation. You've been in Alaska this week. People are talking about Ted Stevens, I imagine, and these indictments.

WILLIAMS: I flew in and out of Ted Stevens Airport, Alex. I'm telling you, he's an institution there, and so much of the talk was about Uncle Ted and all that he's done for Alaska, and yeah, yeah, you know, he may have taken some things improperly, but gosh, what a way to treat an 84-year-old man. So, there's a lot of love for Ted Stevens still in Alaska, even as people acknowledge that there may be some corruption complications.

The other part of this is that they are also concerned that he's going to lose his committee seniority, so he'll no longer be chairman of Appropriations and the like, and that means he won't be able to do things like the Bridges to Nowhere. He won't be able to bring home the bacon for Alaska, as he's done for so many years.

CHADWICK: NPR news analyst, Juan Williams, bringing it home for us on Fridays. Juan, thank you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WILLIAMS: You're welcome, Alex.

(Soundbite of music)

CHADWICK: The Olympics and movies, later in the show, on Day to Day.

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