The Perils of Being a Frontrunner

John McCain was a straight-talking upstart in the 2000 presidential election. Now he's poised to be the G.O.P. favorite for 2008, But at what cost?

CHRISTOPHER MORRIS / VII FOR TIME

John McCain, Washington DC, December 2006

As a rallying cry. "Common sense conservatism" doesn't have quite the ring of "Straight Talk Express." But the new slogan on the website of John McCain's presidential exploratory committee--a slogan he manages to repeat at least three times in every speech he gives these days--tells you all you need to know about how different this presidential campaign will be from his last one. McCain '08 will be a bigger, more conventional operation--a tank, not a slingshot. The prevailing wisdom about McCain used to be that his bipartisan appeal would make him a sure bet in a presidential race--if only he could get...

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