Straight to Michigan for McCain
By Juliet Eilperin
ABOARD THE MCCAIN CAMPAIGN PLANE -- Fresh off his New Hampshire victory, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) shifted gears and emphasized an economic message this morning as he prepared to greet Michigan voters in the run up to next week's primary.
John and Cindy McCain en route to Michigan. (AP)
Noting that Michigan's unemployment rate is 2 percent above the national average, McCain outlined a plan to involve local community colleges more deeply in federal worker retraining efforts. "The displaced worker programs we have are not working," he told reporters on the plane, which was headed to Grand Rapids. "They're designed for the 1950s, with the idea that after a while [workers will] go back to their old jobs. These jobs are not coming back."
The senator continued to tout his foreign policy and military experience in interviews, but made it clear -- like his chief rival in Michigan, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney -- that economic issues would dominate the contest in Michigan. "It's the economy that's the greatest challenge here."
Though McCain voted against President Bush's tax cuts in 2001, he said he would push to make them permanent and lower taxes even further in an effort to boost the nation's financial outlook. He added he would "end the corrupt spending in Washington so we don't get the financial weakness that keeps us from lowering interest rates."
While Romney has a sizeable campaign operation in Michigan--he has had 11 paid staffers working the state for nearly a year, McCain campaign strategist Charlie Black said the senator hired 20 paid staff a month ago and has a significant group of volunteers working on his behalf.
And while former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, with his close ties to evangelical voters in western Michigan, may also play a significant role in next week's primary contest, McCain said he would work to find common ground with evangelicals by talking to them about his determination to curb climate change.
"That's clearly an issue in which I'm in sync with the evangelical community," he said.
Last night's win, McCain added, should also help him make the argument that he's best positioned to beat whichever Democrat ends up running in the fall election: "As soon as you win a primary, the electability quotient goes up."
And displaying the sort of sarcastic wit he's known for, McCain informed reporters he was conducting secret surveillance on them and that the campaign had righted itself financially once it stopped trying to make the comments of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), one of McCain's most fervent supporters, more understandable to non-Southerners.
"One of the reasons we ran into financial difficulties this summer was we had to pay for a translator for Lindsey, and that was such an incredible burden," he joked, as Graham stood beside him on the plane. "We're not doing that anymore."
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