Image: McCain
Carolyn Kaster  /  AP
Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., speaks at a campaign town hall-style meeting at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts in Denver, Monday, July 7, 2008.
By
msnbc.com
updated 7/7/2008 6:46:34 PM ET 2008-07-07T22:46:34
ANALYSIS

I just witnessed Sen. John McCain re-re-re-launch his presidential campaign.

And he did it right here in Denver’s town hall.

I can indeed report that it’s true: changes have been made.

The Republican presidential candidate read from three teleprompters, not two. His camp used those high-tech LCD screens, not the old glass kind. McCain staffers even handed out, for the first time, bound, pocket-sized booklets — just like the ones they use at the White House.

And it seemed like he actually read and practiced his speech ahead of time, rather than winging it grumpily.

While his delivery was still a little starchy, there were only a few verbal hiccups. The economic speech was short, focused and punchy.

His main message: no (or almost no) new taxes.

So now, after all the snarky press attention paid to his gaffes and Popeye-like lack of eloquence, a real conversation over America’s future can begin.

Here in the West, in the battleground state of Colorado, McCain presented himself as the son of Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater. He was regular chip off the tax-cutting lobe of George W. Bush’s brain.

Video: Who will fix the economy? This country, he said, was born in the spirit of individual rights, with power and responsibility flowing from citizens to the states, and then finally to the federal government “only when all the other avenues are exhausted.”

It’s an old-line, classic conservative take on the nation’s economy.

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To that end, McCain focused on tax cuts, looking to get noticed by libertarian conservatives. And plenty of them live in Colorado.

“If you believe in more taxes,” he said, “I am the wrong candidate for you. Senator Obama is your man. The choice in this election is stark and simple. Senator Obama will raise your taxes. I won’t. I will cut them where I can.”

Take that!

Of course, the reality is a bit more complicated.

McCain knows, for example, that as president, any deal he could conceivably broker on Social Security and Medicare would mean more taxes to pay for both.

He’s also proposing at least a smidgen of new estate taxes. And McCain knows that the deal would surely mean more “death taxes” and, of course, criticism from economic purists.

It should be noted that he kept quiet on the plans of his Democratic rival, who’s also got his own strategy to cut taxes, at least for some.

Obama’s proposing more tax cuts for low and middle income families. It's a rejiggering of the Bush cuts set to expire in a couple of years.

Still, McCain’s focus was clear and his words were sharp.

He had a similar take on energy.

In clear, arrow-like sentences, the Arizona legislator portrayed himself as a captain steering a ship in heavy weather with a firm hand.

He called for more drilling, more nuclear plants, and more car battery research.

The town hall that followed was full of feisty participants that often asked unpleasant, if not nasty, questions.

In fact, McCain called first on a Vietnam veteran after noticing his military-themed cap.

The man turned out to be a local Obama supporter who criticized the candidate's recent opposition to a new G.I. bill.

The openness of the questioning was impressive, even if his answers were occasionally evasive.

But he didn’t lose his temper, or cut anyone off.

Now it’s off to Washington, and then to the rest of the campaign.

We’ll see if this is the last relaunch, but at least it got the job done. And in one day.

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