As Democratic Race Ends, McCain Back in Spotlight John McCain has been the presumptive Republican presidential nominee for a few months while the two Democratic candidates stole the spotlight in a drawn out battle for their party's nomination. What will the Arizona senator's strategy be in a presidential race against Democrat Barack Obama?
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As Democratic Race Ends, McCain Back in Spotlight

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As Democratic Race Ends, McCain Back in Spotlight

As Democratic Race Ends, McCain Back in Spotlight

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John McCain has had the Republican nomination wrapped up for so long that it's hard to remember the days when he was slogging through primaries in the cold of January and February. For months he was eclipsed by the race on the Democratic side after that. Now the Democrats have settled on their nominee and the world will be paying attention again to John McCain.

Joining us to talk about the race ahead is NPR news analyst Juan Williams. Good morning.

JUAN WILLIAMS: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: OK. So we now have, at least apparently, two candidates, and there are issues that John McCain is going to push because he is running functionally against Barack Obama rather than Hillary Clinton.

WILLIAMS: Without a doubt. And I'd say the number one issue that he will push is experience. You heard some of this is the speech Tuesday night that Senator McCain delivered from New Orleans. Senator McCain really there hit on the idea that you didn't get to know Obama until yesterday versus the fact that he has a sense people know him. And he emphasized that he has a record as a problem solver, a record of working across the partisan divide.

And as you heard on Tuesday night, he said that Senator Obama is a young man buying into old liberal ideas. So I think you're going to see much more of that as opposed to a campaign against what would have been attacking the partisan, polarizing Hillary Clinton.

MONTAGNE: Now, the two presumptive nominees have served together in the Senate. What do we know about the relationship between John McCain and Barack Obama? Have they worked together on any major issues?

WILLIAMS: I'd say the biggest one, Renee, was ethics reform, and it didn't end well. Back in February of '06, Obama and McCain were members of a task force across party lines that was trying to put together some legislation on ethics reform, disclosure, working with lobbyists, things that are bound to come up again because of the lobbyist issue inside the McCain campaign.

And what happened was that Obama decided that he no longer wanted to be a part of the effort that the task force was putting forth. He preferred the Democratic version and bought out of the deal. And McCain just erupted with his famous anger and said that Obama was insincere and partisan and literally said that Obama had lied to him on ethics reform. It was a rare public rebuke from one Senator to another.

And the two really have been sort of icy towards each for some time - again, as compared to what has been a fairly good relationship between Hillary Clinton and John McCain.

MONTAGNE: And Juan, what do you make of Hillary Clinton's plans to suspend her campaign this week, apparently keeping her options open. What exactly does that all mean?

WILLIAMS: Well, it means that she retains control of her delegates to the convention. And this serves two purposes, Renee. One is it means that she has some control going into that first round of voting at the convention in Denver. And also potentially it would help her with the vice presidential bid, because you've got to come to her to play on many issues - platform issues to more - as the Obama camp tries to take control of the convention. And secondly, it might help her with fund raising going forward. Because she's still got to campaign and can say that she's raising money for her campaign.

MONTAGNE: Well, Juan, does this allow the party to - as it wants to do - unite behind Senator Obama or does Senator McCain have a chance here to win some of Hillary Clinton's supporters?

WILLIAMS: He's already working at winning those supporters, especially women. I don't know if you heard some of his comments over the last few days. He's been talking about how proud he is of Hillary Clinton because he has three daughters and he says that her campaign has made him proud and allowed him to hold it up as an example.

So it's women, it's also Hispanics, because of his experience on immigration reform; it's also working class whites. He will target those constituencies on issue in a way that he would not have done if he'd been running against Hillary Clinton.

MONTAGNE: Juan, thank you very much. NPR news analyst Juan Williams.

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