What Hurt McCain Campaign Most, Iraq or Amnesty? Times Can't Decide

The Times changes its emphasis on precisely what issue is killing John McCain's presidential campaign.

Sen. John McCain's troubled presidential campaign, already hurting from poor fundraising, took some body blows yesterday when two of his top aides departed. In an online posting Tuesday afternoon, Times chief political reporter Adam Nagourney blamed McCain's struggles mostly on the Arizona senator's pro-Iraq War stance, not the failed immigration bill he helped design that would have provided amnesty for illegal immigrants:

"In his remarks, Mr. McCain showed no sign of moving away from his support of Mr. Bush's Iraq policy, a position that that has contributed to what even his own associates described as his remarkable political decline this year."

Only in the next-to-last-paragraph did Nagourney add that McCain "has seen his standing decline in a series of recent polls, particularly after he became identified as a promoter of the immigration bill in Congress that was opposed by many Republicans."

Interestingly, the edited print version of the story from Nagourney and David Kirkpatrick focused first on immigration, and only later mentioned McCain's war stance as a factor in his decline: "Donations were drying up, in part because of Republican opposition to Mr. McCain's stances on issues like immigration, and the campaign was falling far short of its fund-raising goals....They said Mr. McCain and his aides had made two fundamental strategic decisions that so far have proven flawed. One was that voters would reward Mr. McCain for taking principled decisions on issues - especially immigration, where he is out of step with much of the grass roots of the Republican Party, and the war in Iraq, where his steadfast support for fighting on has left him on the defensive. Instead, polls suggest that Mr. McCain has alienated much of the Republican base."