So you want to run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012? Here’s a hot tip from 2008 nominee John McCain:

Citing his own experience as the Republican nominee for president in 2008, McCain said the still-strong Republican presence in New Hampshire helped catapult his campaign toward the nomination. And since, he predicts, there will be a large group running in 2012, Republicans have to make the strongest showing early on in the campaign.
“For Republicans it seems to me that New Hampshire is still the very key place,” McCain said at the annual Washington Reuters Summit.
McCain also discounted Iowa as a key state to the campaign. McCain has never taken Iowa seriously in his attempts at the party’s nomination. McCain came in fifth in 2000 Iowa caucuses and fourth in 2008.
“The (Iowa) caucuses don’t seem to have the impact anymore that they used to, for the Republicans,” he said.

McCain might have added that this strategy works best if your main NH rival does run in Iowa, and loses there to an underfunded social conservative who goes on to split the vote against you in South Carolina and Florida. But then that would have involved acknowledging that his 2008 nomination was a crazy three-cushion shot that is unlikely to be replicated in the foreseeable future.

Maybe next McCain will offer his advice on how to pick a running-mate who won’t upstage you.