WASHINGTON (CNN) – Just days after holding a closed door fundraiser with President Bush in Arizona, presumptive Republican nominee John McCain will put space between himself and the president tonight in a prime time speech to be given just outside of New Orleans.
McCain adviser Steve Schmidt appeared on CNN’s "American Morning" on Tuesday and said the speech will be "about the future" and outline differences between McCain’s vision for America and that of of Barack Obama, who is expected to claim victory in the Democratic primary race tonight.
But Schmidt also signaled that the setting of the speech in New Orleans, where McCain last visited in April, is intended to highlight differences between McCain and the current Republican occupying the White House. The city, Schmidt said, "signifies to the American people what is broken about our government."
Schmidt struck back at attempts by Obama and Democratic interest groups to portray McCain as a natural successor to Bush.
“Senator Obama is fond of saying that John McCain represent as third term for George W. Bush,” he said. "The reality is that Senator McCain has disagreed on issue after issue with President Bush over the last eight years. He is his own man. He has his own opinions."
Schmidt argued that McCain's opposition to the administration’s initial strategy in Iraq highlights the senator’s independent spirit. He also challenged Obama's judgment on the war.
"On the biggest question this country has faced, over the last couple of years, while the two of them have been in the senate, it was this question about how we change the strategy in Iraq," Schmidt said. "Sen. McCain advocated a change in strategy that has led to where we are today, which is success in Iraq. We are winning this war after many years of mismanagement. Sen. Obama said that strategy would not succeed. He was wrong. Sen. McCain was right."