But Bush isn't quite ready to follow McCain's authenticity tack into the public's hearts. While the Arizona senator wears such "honesty" well, it could be seen as hypocritical coming from Bush, who has repeatedly attacked Al Gore as poll-driven and without conviction. On Thursday, Bush reaffirmed his position that the flag is a state issue. Now he finds himself trapped between states' rights purists and moral purists, between presenting himself as a man of conviction and bending to public opinion, and between his vision of an expanded federal government and a strong position on state sovereignty. "For Bush, the challenge is to maintain his current position as popular among southern conservatives while attracting the suburban centrist vote," says TIME political correspondent John F. Dickerson. "It may seem that he has the conservative vote sewn up, but if they feel he's abandoned them, they can always stay home at the polls. "
"The bigger balancing act," argues Dickerson, could come between principle and respecting states' rights. "Bush likes to argue that one of the failures of America in the 1960s was that people in power didn't stand up and say the moral decay of the country was wrong. He's therefore long held that it's the responsibility of leaders to speak out against moral wrongs. So there seems to be a contradiction between his saying leaders should stand up for what's right and not taking a stance on the flag issue. This could certainly hurt him with African-American voters, but more importantly, it has the potential to hurt him with independent and suburban voters who tend to notice issues of tolerance."