The Sen. John McCain of the recent past can successfully lead the United States into the future as president.

Candidate McCain must shed the baggage that burdens his status as presidential contender and the compromising air he wears like an ill-fitting suit, and be true to his personal tenacity, honesty and candor.

We think that man, the maverick senator – renewed and reinvigorated- is ready for residency in the White House.

The need for consensus within the Republican Party – whose identity and fortunes have been hurt by missteps of the Bush presidency – compelled McCain to evolve his views and positions to suit political ends.

It’s an uncomfortable fit. Which is why, we believe, once elected to the White House, McCain would again display his proven abilities to lead, inspire and direct this remarkable nation through a difficult and challenging future.

Sen. John McCain is our choice for the American presidency.

This has been an amazing presidential campaign. As its end draws near, it’s easy to forget its beginning.

In 2007, prospects were bleak for McCain, because of his history of putting his principles above party.

He’d taken brave policy positions, such as on campaign finance reform and climate change. His bipartisan efforts on issues such as immigration reform with Sen. Ted Kennedy earned our respect at least, if the ire of others.

This record was McCain’s burden. It’s his greatest asset now, as it cuts through the weird theater of high-stakes politics – with its catch-phrases and merciless bombardment of attack ads – to the real person underneath.

In 1999-2000, McCain was similar to Sen. Barack Obama today: a dynamic upstart fighting uphill against his party’s preordained nominee. While Obama won, McCain’s star fell in South Carolina.

Since then, McCain has been more thorn than pawn for his party. Accusations that he represents an extension of Bush policies are misguided and sound like inflated attempts to strap McCain to the unpopular president.

The 1999-2000 McCain was not aligned with Bush. We don’t think the 2008 version – who has said unequivocally “I am not President Bush” – is either.

That said, especially on economic issues, McCain has made statements and espoused policies closely aligned with the current president. It’s McCain’s burden, once elected, to buttress his claims of distance with action.

America needs change. We’re torn, however, over scope. Wholesale replacement of ideology in the White House, with a likely Democratic supermajority in Congress, is a great concern.

The country needs a shift, not a swing, from its current course.

This will require cooperation between parties. President John McCain could be the cross-aisle consensus builder who could turn the country back toward prosperity.

He has our confidence to restore the military to prominence. Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have stretched our resources and left the country vulnerable. Few realize this better than a decorated former soldier and prisoner of war.

McCain was prescient on the “surge.” His views for resolving America’s conflicts are popularly unpalatable, but we cannot fault the results. Wars rarely go as planned. McCain has earned the status of commander-in-chief.

We admire his opponent, Sen. Barack Obama. His future is bright, his patriotism and capability unquestioned and his intelligence unparalleled. Yet the broad change he and his party vow to deliver is not what the country really needs.

We would enjoy seeing Obama and President McCain working together the next four years for the betterment of this country. We know they could.

One question mark for McCain remains: Gov. Sarah Palin. She was a risky choice for vice president, and is unproven, at best. President McCain must make every effort to validate her selection.

We’re confident McCain can do this. This campaign has confirmed that he is an uncomfortable candidate, whose actions on the trail are contrary to his long, sterling record of service, bipartisanship and principled stances.

For us, his record makes John McCain the right choice for president.

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