I remember, writing about the final stages of the GOP primary down in South Carolina, how unequivocally McCain described his post-reform-bill shift on immigration: He had "gotten the message," radio advertisements blared in the race's final days. In a great -- if disappointingly short -- piece in Time, Michael Scherer tries to pin down what message McCain got, exactly:
[After the reform bill's defeat, McCain] continued to favor all the parts of his comprehensive plan — border security, increased employer sanctions for illegal hiring and a path to citizenship for the undocumented — but he mostly refrained from using the word "comprehensive." Instead, he spoke of a two-stage solution. First, he would secure the borders, a process that would be certified by border state governors. Then he would push for a process to allow the 12 million undocumented immigrants to become full citizens.
More recently, however, McCain has switched back to his earlier rhetoric on the issue. In late May, he took time at an event in California to point out that he had worked with Sen. Ted Kennedy on the immigration bill. "We must enact comprehensive immigration reform, and we must make it a top agenda item," he said. (emphasis mine)
Scherer teases out how nobody really knows how McCain feels on immigration, as of now. He's currently pulling off the trick of being everything to everybody: A principled holdout for citizenship if you ask La Raza, a shamed-and-reformed anti-amnesty crusader if you ask Tom Tancredo.