John McCain's 'œStraight Talk Express' is back on the road, said John Dickerson in Slate.com, but it's taken a big detour. The Arizona senator and Republican presidential hopeful has been tearing through Iowa and New Hampshire aboard the same campaign bus that symbolized his maverick 2000 candidacy. But 'œafter more than a year of careful preparation designed to make his nomination seem inevitable,' McCain is trailing Rudy Giuliani by 20 points in the polls, and he's struggling to recapture the magic of seven years ago. It's a tough sell, said Adam Nagourney in The New York Times. In an effort to woo social conservatives, McCain has veered to the right on abortion, gay marriage, and other hot-button issues. So far, the Christian right is unimpressed, while centrists and Independents who once adored McCain are puzzled and disappointed. 'œEverybody says, 'We just want you to be like last time,'' McCain says. 'œLast time we lost! But I haven't changed any.'
Despite his best efforts, said Gerard Baker in the London Times, he may yet lose again. A year ago, McCain figured that he would give the party an electable, centrist alternative to a hard-core conservative like Virginia Sen. George Allen. But he's now in an unexpected three-way race with two other Republican mavericks, Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. And while McCain once positioned himself as 'œthe best insurance policy against a Hillary Clinton presidency,' the meteoric rise of Barack Obama has dramatically changed the dynamics of the election. Charismatic, energetic, and a full generation younger, the 45-year-old Obama would focus voters' attention on the future, an uncomfortable topic for the 70-year-old McCain.
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