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McCain gets political win on border troops

Here's a political story that really couldn't have gone better for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Today, President Obama joined Senate Republicans for their weekly luncheon, and according to people who were in attendance, McCain used his time to inform the president that the National Guard needed to head to the U.S.-Mexico border in order to control crime and make it at least possible to begin a discussion on comprehensive immigration reform. According to Sen. John Kyl (R-Ariz.), who backed up McCain, the senator even informed the president that he was doing a disservice by mischaracterizing what was in Arizona's new immigration law. (Kyl also said that one senator criticized Mexican President Felipe Calderon's speech to Congress, but didn't say which senator it was.)

"Phoenix is now the kidnapping capital of the country, second only to Mexico City in the world," Kyl told reporters, one of several exchanges between senators and reporters on the Hill that significantly elevated an issue it's unclear whether the Senate will actually work on this year. "There is a need to do more to secure the border. There are some on the left who say, well, if we secure the border first, people won't want to do more to secure immigration reform. I don't think that's true -- I think that will help us get to comprehensive immigration reform." Asked about how many troops might be needed: "If he sends two troops to the border, that probably wouldn't be enough, but if he sends 2,000, that would be very very helpful."

That was at roughly 2:30 p.m. At 2:56 p.m., the White House announced that 1200 more members of the National Guard would be sent to the border. The news came literally the moment that McCain was taking the floor in the Senate to propose... sending the National Guard to the border.

"I think it's a recognition of the violence on the border," said McCain, "which is really beyond description... border security has greatly deteriorated over the last 18 months."

McCain's plan calls for 6000 guardsmen to go the border, five times as many as the White House announces. But in his short floor speech, McCain made reference to his own visits to the border, and it was impossible not to think of his much-derided campaign ad that puts him in that scene, talking with a border guard about what needs to be done.

That comes the same day that McCain's campaign is mocking his GOP primary opponent as "America's dumbest congressman." Not a bad talking point to bring back home.

By David Weigel  |  May 25, 2010; 3:44 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Election , Immigration  
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