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McCain Echoes Hill GOP Message

Yesterday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told reporters he wanted to end the federal ban on offshore oil drilling, and he will reiterate that point in a speech today in Houston.

Tomorrow morning, the House Appropriations Committee will vote on an amendment to the energy and water spending bill that would lift the ban on oil and gas exploration between 50 and 200 miles off the U.S. coast. The amendment is expected to fail, as it did in subcommittee last week, but it will give the Hill GOP another talking point in their weeks-long focus on high gas prices and the need for more domestic oil production.

So McCain and his Republican colleagues on Capitol Hill are singing from the same songbook this week. Is this evidence of precise coordination between the two? Or is it just a fortuitous coincidence for the GOP? Based on Capitol Briefing's reporting, it's more the latter than the former.

Republican sources in the House and Senate describe their relationship with the McCain campaign as being in its infancy. Yes, there have been a few meetings, and there are occasional calls between top aides in both camps. But as of yet there is no well-oiled machine (especially not on the ANWR issue, where the two sides still disagree).

Gas prices are high and energy exploration is on everyone's mind, which explains why McCain is calling for more drilling this afternoon and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) expounded on the same subject on the Senate floor this morning.

But even if they're not actively synching their message with McCain's, congressional Republicans can benefit from hitching a ride on the presidential candidate's caravan of media coverage. After all, the House and Senate GOP have been hammering for weeks at the idea that more oil drilling is necessary, blaming Democrats for high gas prices. Despite the occasional burst of media coverage, their efforts haven't really made the front page, as is usually the case with the Hill minority.

Yet when McCain comes out and says essentially what his fellow Republicans have been saying for weeks, it gets above-the-fold, A1 play. The GOP's bully pulpit is slowly being transferred from President Bush, now a lame duck, to McCain. If they want attention in a year dominated by campaign coverage, congressional Republicans would be wise to follow his lead -- or at least hope he follows theirs.

By Ben Pershing  |  June 17, 2008; 11:24 AM ET
Categories:  2008 Campaign , Agenda , GOP Leaders  
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