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McCain Short on Cash


In politics, Senator McCain's campaign has been not getting so much attention this week as the two democrats have done some very high-profile sparring, but polls show that may not be a bad thing for Senator McCain. Joining me now as he does every Friday, NPR News Analyst Juan Williams. Juan, the recent polls shows Senator McCain running just about even if he's in a hypothetical match-up with either democrat. He's slightly ahead of Senator Clinton. Maybe his campaign is deliberately staying kind of out of the spotlight to keep the media focused on the Obama-Clinton battles.

JUAN WILLIAMS: Not a bad idea, Alex. In fact, this is causing some kind of manic reaction among democrats. The party officials are really anxious about the head to head numbers because there's no reason, again from a statistical point of view, that any Republican should be running anywhere close to any democrat.

If you look back a year, it was more than a 20 point spread that Americans said they wanted any Democrat over any Republican after two terms of President Bush, and of course, you know President Bush's ratings, approval ratings are down at 20 percentage, the war is unpopular, economy in trouble and yet, there's one republican who seems to be doing pretty well as you just pointed out, and that's John McCain.

CHADWICK: And he's doing well not running away from President Bush's policies, but saying he's going to stick pretty closely, I think, to the policies for which Mr. Bush is suffering in the political polls. He is going to stay behind the war in Iraq, and he's a tax cutter like President Bush.

WILLIAMS: He's staying with the Republican theme in part, I think Alex, because he needs to make sure that he has the conservative base with him going forward. And on the war, again, his point is that he knows how to run this thing right and that he can make sure that America wins the war. So, that's his approach. I - it's amazing how well he's doing right now among independents and even some conservative Democrats.

CHADWICK: And how do you explain that, especially given that he's essentially carrying on similar policies to what President Bush is?

WILLIAMS: Well, he gets very positive press. In fact, if you look at the three candidates remaining in the race, it's going to be no surprise to you that a Pew poll recently found that most Americans say, more than a third of Americans say, that most of the news they get about Hillary Clinton is negative. And Barack Obama does much better, but the one who does absolutely the best is John McCain.

CHADWICK: Juan, according to a story at the website, Senator McCain's campaign has developed a whole new kind of strategy - a new way to run a campaign, very decentralized. Partly, this is required because they don't have the money to run a traditional campaign. But it's also a kind of intriguing, it seems to me, idea.

WILLIAMS: Well, it is. But as you point out, this is really a function of money. He's leaning right now towards taking public financing for the campaign, because there's no way he's going to match either Barack Obama, or Hillary Clinton when it comes to fund raising. So, the idea is, take the government money and then, have people make contributions to the Republican Party - something called the Victory Campaign Fund. And of course, rely on the 527s, all those support groups to throw money in as well.

CHADWICK: Your best political conversation of the week?

WILLIAMS: I've had a surprising number of conversations in the last days since the Obama-Clinton debate in Philadelphia. But focused on the way ABC handled the debate, George Stephanopoulos and Charlie Gibson. Obama campaign is just up in arms over what they viewed as the trivial, petty questions focusing on everything from Obama's minister, to why he doesn't wear a flag pin. They just feel like, it has gone into the tank, and that they have never seen such pettiness. The Obama people just feel like, his worst debate performance came in Philadelphia and a result of a news media that has gone away from big issues and big concerns, and is instead locked into finger pointing and pettiness with regard to Obama, who is now the front runner.

CHADWICK: We'll have more on that in a moment. NPR News analyst, Juan Williams, a regular guest, speaking with us today from the airport here in Los Angeles. Juan, thank you.

WILLIAMS: You're welcome, Alex. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.