What Sen. John McCain should keep in mind as he prepares to accept the Republican nomination for president this week:
1. Don’t try to compete. The Democrats put on a star-studded spectacular in Denver, complete with A-listers and a stadium speech. John McCain must resist the idea of trying to compete on Barack Obama’s terms. Voters are more serious than the pundits think. McCain needs to make a simple, heartfelt appeal, not go for the glamour.
2. Go with God. Democrats have made their best play for evangelical voters, and polls show they missed by a mile. The St. Paul, Minn., convention is McCain’s best chance to fire up his party’s religious base. If he speaks from the heart about God, family and country as he did at the Saddleback forum, religious Republicans will go wild.
3. Resist the temptation to settle scores. There will be plenty of Republicans looking to do to their convention what Hillary Clinton did to the Democrats: steal the limelight. Mike Huckabee looks like a prime suspect. If McCain makes his case correctly to the Christian core of his party, he can allow Huckabee to talk as much as he wants. Responding would only create an alternate story line.
4. Use the Midwest to his advantage. Minnesota is a swing state, and every electoral map shows that all roads lead to the Midwest. McCain, who in the minds of voters is mainly associated with Vietnam and Capitol Hill, would do well to identify himself as a son of the prairie.
5. Keep his sense of humor. The Democrats are already in full attack mode. Surrounded by party faithful, McCain will be tempted to fight fire with fire. He can allow surrogates to hit the Democrats on taxes and foreign policy, but he needs to limit himself to tweaking Obama. By staying low-key, McCain can diminish his opponent’s stature without reminding people of his notorious temper.