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Texas and Ohio primaries are closing in

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By Samantha Hayes, Washington, D.C.

February 29th, 2008

For the most part, it's been a pretty good week for John McCain on the campaign trail. A couple of exceptions include that controversial incident with conservative radio host Bill Cunningham in Cincinnati Tuesday.

And then McCain had an unfortunate slip of the tongue a couple days later that I'll get to in a minute.  But otherwise the Arizona senator is getting close to the number of delegates he needs to officially clinch the Republican nomination, and potential wins in the Ohio and Texas primaries next week should do that.

Speaking of Texas, that's where former Secretary of State James Baker endorsed McCain Thursday saying, "John McCain offers the 'roll-up-your-sleeves, bottom-line approach' that Americans, and especially Texans, demand of their leaders. Texans also cotton to concise country sayings that make a strong point. So while we are here in my home state, let me add that John McCain has a lot more than just the hat ... he has the cattle to go with it."

But in order to win the general election in November, McCain knows he will need to corral conservatives as well as independents.

To that end, an announcement from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg may also bode well for McCain.  Bloomberg had been flirting with the idea of a run at the White House and could have potentially siphoned independent voters from McCain.  But Bloomberg finally ended the rumors and said in the New York Times this week that he will not run.

McCain's current Republican rival Mike Huckabee may be a political nuisance to him right now, but McCain probably doesn't object to Huckabee's recent criticism of Barack Obama.

"I hear Barack Obama say that he's going to provide everybody with health care and college tuition and pave the street with gold," said Huckabee Thursday.  "The proposals he's put on the table so far, already are going to cost about 287 billion dollars so far... now that's a lot of money."

National security is perhaps McCain's strongest platform and on Thursday President Bush took aim at one of McCain's potential Democratic rivals, Barack Obama.  During the Democratic debate earlier in the week, Obama said he would send troops back to Iraq if al Qaeda was successful in establishing bases there after a US withdrawal. In a usually pointed statement, Bush said, "well, that's exactly what they've (al Qaeda) been trying to do for the past four years...That's one of the challenges we face is denying al Qaeda a safe haven anywhere."

Obama responded to Bush's comments and recent attacks from McCain saying both have "called for staying the course with an endless war in Iraq and a failed policy of not talking to leaders we don't like."

Maybe that sounded like liberal policy-making to McCain. And maybe he got the "L" word stuck in his head because on Thursday, after the high notes of President Bush's support and Baker's endorsement, McCain accidentally made the highlight reel of political gaffes by saying, "I'm a proud, conservative, liberal Republi- Hello! Easy there," He corrected himself immediately, reiterating "let me say this: I am a proud, conservative Republican, and both of my possible or likely opponents today are liberal Democrats."

Ah, well. There's always next week.

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