Now that John McCain has secured the Republican nomination and gotten the President Bush photo op out of the way, what does he do now? I mean, besides trying not to appear at Bush’s side again until sometime after November.

My suggestion: lay low for awhile. The impulse will be for him to keep his name on the front page, making speeches and campaign stops and generating news stories. But the best kinds of news stories for McCain right now are the ones critiquing Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Let the two Democrats drive the media cycle with their backbiting and muckraking. Observe which attacks work against which candidate. And, most importantly of all, stay out of it so as to appear above it.

Even us McCain supporters know we’re backing an 8:1 horse here. No matter how much real change McCain can offer, unless he changes the R by his name, a lot of voters are going to head the other direction. That’s the political reality. His chances at victory depend on two main factors. 1) He’s got to stay true to his independent instincts and not become the McBush so many on the left are trying to pretend he is. 2) He’s got to hope Obama and Clinton damage each other enough that the electorate ends up trusting neither or at least ends up exhausted by them both.

McCain has plenty of time for that first factor. He needs to see if that second factor is going to play out now. So, Johnny, sit back, maybe propose something bipartisan in the Senate, do some low-key fundraisers, work on your speaking style, rest up. You’ll need all your wits and a little luck to win this one.

Politics McCain’s Next Move