Jim Geraghty reached out to the John McCain campaign to ask them …. well, to ask them what the hell John McCain was thinking yesterday. Instead of dancing around it, Geraghty’s source acknowledged the damage done by the statement, but insisted it was just an example of poor wording. Their commitment to border security first has not changed, they said:
I doubt this will mitigate the anger of bloggers like John Hawkins much, but Team McCain tells me there’s been no change in his stance on immigration — secure the border first, deal with other aspects of illegal immigration once the border is secure. Recently, McCain made comments that seemed to suggest he was eager to get to the second part, which conservatives and border security types are understandably wary about. ….
Team McCain tells me the senator’s comments were poorly worded. There’s been no discussion within the campaign of altering their stance on illegal immigration, and as far as everyone on the campaign is concerned, the policy is still, ‘secure the border first.’
If so, then Senator McCain needs to make a rather high-profile attempt to clear up the confusion. I didn’t think he had departed from his previous positions, but clearly that was the impression that was left with people, and not necessarily unreasonably so.
It’s admirable that they acknowledged the mistake, but McCain needs to perform better now that he’s won the nomination, especially on this hot-button issue. He has to know that a large number of conservatives mistrust him on this specific issue, and that anything said on the trail about immigration will get very close scrutiny. He can’t afford missteps like this.