PHOENIX – John McCain sees one downside to having clinched the Republican presidential nomination: There’s less attention focused on him than on the volatile contest between Democrats Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.

McCain understands he must compete for the spotlight. “I think it’s going to be very exciting to watch,” he said of the Democrats.

“It makes me have to work harder, obviously, to make sure that we maintain the visibility,” McCain told reporters last week. “It’s also, when we think about it, a very long time from March to November. That’s a long trip.”

McCain wrapped up the Republican nomination last Tuesday with victories in Ohio and Texas, but the Democratic primaries there put Clinton back into contention after 11 straight losses to Obama. Their contest, and the attention it commands, could last for months.

McCain, in the meantime, must transition from smaller, state-by-state primary campaigns to a national campaign that in some ways is less suited to his style of campaigning.

The Arizona senator thrives in the smaller settings of primary campaign events where he can make eye contact and talk directly with voters.

That is how McCain staged his comeback two months ago in New Hampshire, where he held intimate, town hall-style meetings and held forth with journalists aboard his Straight Talk Express campaign bus.

But a general election calls for massive rallies with crowds in the thousands, a setting that is Obama’s forte but is less fitting for McCain, a slightly monotone speaker with a softer, somewhat raspy voice.

McCain insists he will be able to continue his more personal style of campaigning, but he and his advisers are still working out how to do that.

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