(CNN) – John McCain may have been victorious in the Republican presidential primaries, but that silver lining comes with its own cloud, as the spotlight stays fixed on his potential fall opponents, still locked in their own primary battle. Now his campaign has developed a plan to try to keep the Arizona senator in the media narrative, and provide what they hope is a contrast with the brawling Democrats.
“There will undoubtedly be more attention paid to Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton,” conceded McCain Thursday, but said their fight would give him time to shore up his base of support and unite the Republican Party.
McCain’s first stop will be New Hampshire for a town hall meeting – his first post-vote visit back to the state that propelled his comeback.
Then, say his advisers, he will head overseas. Later this month he will go to Europe and meet with allies and leaders of key countries, followed by a journey to the Middle East – an itinerary designed to showcase his credentials as the candidate with the most foreign policy experience.
When he returns, McCain’s team plans another tour – one designed to highlight his biography and service. His advisers say Americans know McCain was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, but don’t know many of the details that go along with that. “Many people know McCain as he maverick senator, but we don’t presume that they know the entirety if his remarkable life story and how that prepared him to be president,” said one senior adviser.
One of the themes they hope to stress is the image of McCain as an inspirational figure based on his background and experience, not “platitudes” - as the likely Republican nominee has often characterized potential general election opponent Barack Obama.
The senator will travel to locations that help illustrate parts of his life and the story his campaign wants to tell, like Annapolis. They will also try to focus attention on his family’s military lineage – both his father and grandfather were admirals in the Navy.
That will take the campaign through April; at that point, McCain will deliver a series of policy addresses on everything from national security to the health care crisis, from the environment to the economy.
McCain’s campaign is well aware of the perception that the economy is a big weak spot for the candidate, and they are already at work on an economic plan that they hope will address that problem. CNN has been told that adviser and former Texas Senator Phil Gramm is currently working with campaign aides to devise an economic plan: an adviser familiar with the planning insists is will be “bold” but would not provide other details, saying the planning is still fluid.
–CNN’s Dana Bash