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McCain seeks nomination payoff

Spurs Suns Basketball McCain 2008
Presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., right, seen here with his wife Cindy McCain, has a stark task ahead of him - raising enough campaign funds to compete with whoever becomes his Democratic opponent in the general election.Ross D. Franklin / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Sen. John McCain is finding out what the Republican presidential nomination is worth this week.

Then he plans to buff his foreign policy credentials, remind the nation of his long military history and try to frame the issues for the November election — in three separate tours while his two Democratic opponents continue to struggle for their party's nomination.

"Whenever you're the nominee of your party, I think people will want to re-examine the candidate," the senator said before leaving Arizona following a weekend at home. "I'd like to believe that all 300 million Americans know me, but unfortunately, that's not the case. I'll have to work hard to attract their votes."

But first, he had a full medical screening on Monday.

While McCain has previously been treated for skin cancer, he said there was nothing that precipitated his visit, which included a full medical workup. He said his dermatologist also performed a cancer screening during the past few weeks. Results from all the exams will be released April 15, he said.

"Everything's fine," McCain told reporters during a news conference. "Like most Americans, I go see my doctor fairly frequently."

Playing catch-up
McCain's next step Monday was fundraising.

McCain has been outraised by both of his potential Democratic opponents, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama . Clinton has more than doubled McCain's donations; Obama has nearly tripled the Arizona senator's total.

Six days after clinching the GOP nomination, McCain headed Monday to a fundraiser in St. Louis.

He planned to continue Tuesday in New York, Wednesday in Boston, Thursday in Pennsylvania and Friday in Chicago to counter an explosion in giving to the Democratic contenders who each set personal bests in February.

Sen. Obama raised $55 million in February alone, while Sen. Clinton collected $35 million. McCain has not yet released his February totals.

More broadly, while Obama and Clinton fight on, McCain hopes to shore up his campaign financing, public image and political posture.

On Wednesday, for example, McCain will hold his first general-election town hall meeting in a nostalgic locale: New Hampshire. The Exeter event is a nod to the state's pivotal role as host to the first primary McCain won en route to the nomination.

Foreign policy, economy, environment
In the coming weeks, McCain also hopes to deepen voters' understanding of his background and policy views.

His first effort comes in foreign policy next week. McCain keeps a previously scheduled commitment to join a congressional visit to European and Middle Eastern capitals. He plans to meet with a series of world leaders.

Upon his return, McCain plans a major foreign policy address.

Then McCain will take off on a biographical tour that will highlight his military service.

Among the expected stops: McCain Field in Mississippi, a Navy facility named for his grandfather, a former admiral; Jacksonville, Fla., where McCain returned from his time as a Vietnam prisoner of war and commanded the largest flight squadron in the Navy; and Alexandria, Va., and Annapolis, Md., where McCain went to high school and then the Naval Academy.

That tour is expected to be followed by a trip aimed at outlining McCain's positions on issues such as the economy and the environment, as well as his concern for less-affluent areas of the country, such as Appalachia.

Fundraising factor
McCain's most immediate concern, though, is money.

During the current election cycle, Obama and Clinton have not only outraised him, but far exceeded him in cash on hand.

As of Jan. 31, Obama, a senator from Illinois, had raised $141 million, with $25 million cash on hand; Clinton, a senator from New York and former first lady, had raised $138 million and had $29 million cash on hand.

By contrast, McCain has raised $55 million and had $5.2 million cash on hand at the end of January.

An invitation to his event Wednesday night at the Taj Boston hotel is fairly typical of those this week: $2,300 donations — the maximum allowable for each primary and general election campaign — are required for a private reception with McCain. A half-hour later, the tab drops to $1,000 per person for a more widely accessible general reception.

It was uncertain whether former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who had challenged McCain for the Republican nomination, would attend the event.