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Can McCain recover in race for GOP nomination?

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John McCain, the darling of the independents and the news media in the 2000 presidential campaign, is struggling in the 2008 race.

The senator from Arizona continues to place a solid second in national polls behind former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani for the GOP nomination. And now he is lowering expectations in the all-important "money primary." When the totals for fundraising in the first quarter of 2007 – which ends this Saturday – are announced, Senator McCain is likely not to wow anybody, he hints.

"We started late, our money-raising, and we're going to pay a price for it, because we got off to a late start," McCain told reporters on Sunday, according to the Associated Press.

Technically, McCain is not even a formally declared candidate yet, but in effect, he has been running for president ever since he lost the Republican nomination to George W. Bush in 2000. Now, despite his status as the GOP's "establishment" candidate and the backing of key Bush fundraisers and campaign advisers, he is once again the underdog.

Can he recover? Yes, say political analysts, who see Mr. Giuliani's support as soft and Republican voters not as engaged in their party's nomination battle as the Democrats are in theirs.

McCain remains a top-tier candidate, and in the earliest nominating states, Iowa and New Hampshire, he is neck and neck with Giuliani. In Iowa, they are tied at 29 percent each among Republican voters. The key there is that the addition of former Sen. Fred Thompson (R) of Tennessee as a potential candidate takes support away from Giuliani, as McCain rises.

Mr. Thompson received 12 percent of Republican voters in the latest poll by the independent American Research Group – the first time ARG has included Thompson in a poll there. In the same Iowa poll, McCain gained six points from the previous month, while Giuliani lost two points. In New Hampshire, McCain leads Giuliani 23 percent to 19 percent in the latest ARG poll.

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