By Daniel Politi, Today’s Papers
The WSJ has the most detailed look at the Colombian rescue operation and says it couldn’t have come at a better time for President Alvaro Uribe, who lately has been engulfed in a bribery scandal. The paper is also, surprisingly, alone in mentioning that the success of the mission is a finger in the eye for Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who had tried to position himself as the only leader able to negotiate for the release of the hostages. USAT and WSJ note up high that the rescue mission took place on the same day as Sen. John McCain was visiting the country. Of course, the timing was pure coincidence, but it seems Uribe and his aides had briefed McCain about the operation. Curious how the operation worked? The WSJ has a blow-by-blow in a separate story.
U.S. officials took pains to emphasize that the rescue mission was a Colombian-led operation, but everyone notes the United States helped with the planning and provided critical intelligence. The three American citizens who were released yesterday were flown directly to San Antonio, Texas. The Northrop Grumman employees had been in captivity since 2003, when their surveillance plane crashed.
The NYT, WP, and LAT front news that McCain made changes in the top levels of his campaign staff in what was the second personnel shakeup in a year. Yesterday, McCain put senior strategist Steve Scmidt, who once worked with Karl Rove, in charge of most day-to-day operations and diminished the role of Rick Davis, his campaign manager. The move came after weeks of handwringing by Republicans who have been complaining that McCain seems to lack a clear message to sell his candidacy to voters. Many say McCain is jumping around from issue to issue without a clear strategy and point to his three-day trip to Colombia and Mexico as a prime example of how his campaign lacks focus. The NYT notes the move is the latest sign that many who worked with Rove are gaining influence in the campaign.
The WSJ fronts a look at how McCain backers are finding ways to get around the campaign-finance law, which the presumptive Republican nominee helped to write, in order to catch up to Sen. Barack Obama in the money race. The paper mostly focuses on how the Republican Governors Association is recruiting big-money donors by telling them that anything they contribute will help McCain in key swing states. These types of groups are forbidden from pledging that they’ll help a federal candidate with their money, but those who work at the association are telling donors that helping elect Republican governors will also be good for McCain in November. Republicans are trying to raise $120 million on McCain’s behalf through the national and state parties and 527 organizations, including the governors group.