John McCain's strategists are increasingly concerned about his ties to President Bush, and they are looking for ways to distance him from the unpopular incumbent in the fall campaign.
"The Democrats want to run against George Bush," a senior McCain adviser told U.S. News. "We want to make it clear that they're running against John McCain. We have to make the case that he's been at odds with Bush on a lot of things."
That includes McCain's criticism of mismanagement of the initial phases of the Iraq war, Bush's failure to cut domestic spending, Bush's attempts to increase executive power, and other issues. Iraq policy may be a special challenge, because McCain has been a leading advocate of Bush's surge of U.S. troops into the war zone.
That increase has quelled much of the violence there, but Americans remain impatient for the war to be over even though they want the next commander in chief to be careful in how he or she withdraws.
"People feel it was a mistake, but people don't want to withdraw precipitously," the McCain adviser says. Beyond all this, McCain wants to demonstrate that he isn't stuck in the past and has fresh ideas. "We want the election to be about the future," just as the Democrats do, the adviser says.
—Kenneth T. Walsh