John McCain essentially has a one-state strategy in his quest for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008.
He must win New Hampshire or kiss it all good-bye.
During a meeting with The State (Columbia, S.C.) editorial board last summer, at the low point of his campaign, the U.S. senator from Arizona was asked about New Hampshire.
"I have to win it," he said.
On Jan. 8 - the day of the nation's first primary - McCain will have that chance.
In the last two months, the 71-year-old senator has made a remarkable comeback for a veteran politician, opening another intriguing narrative in the wide-open Republican field.
"I'm pleased," said Richard Quinn, a Columbia-based consultant to the McCain campaign. "I always had hope and believed he'd stage a comeback.
"It has been incredible."
McCain had been left for dead politically this summer. Most pundits had written him off. Some still do.
But the senator has surged back into a strong second place in New Hampshire polls behind Mitt Romney, throwing a scare into the former Massachusetts governor's campaign.
The change has forced Romney to return to the New England state to shore up his sagging poll numbers.
McCain and Romney have traded angry, long-distance insults, bringing a quick end to the nice-sounding Christmas messages that GOP hopefuls offered last week.
While McCain sought to break out of the pack, his rivals also looked to gain some steam in the remaining days of the early voting in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani sought to re-establish his credentials as a leader by reminding voters of the role he played after New York City was attacked by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001.
Giuliani's decision to skip the early contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina and concentrate on Florida's Jan. 29 primary has many experts scratching their heads.
How could any candidate hope to kick off a national campaign after suffering four - perhaps five - straight losses, which would be the case if Giuliani sticks with his plan to bypass the early contests?
Former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee spent the week traversing Iowa on a bus hoping to revitalize his lackluster campaign.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, the overall front-runner, sought to broaden his appeal beyond the church pews by hunting pheasants. He bagged a bird while reporters watched.
McCain, meanwhile, let the states' leading newspapers do the talking for him. They singled him out as the "best choice" among Republican candidates.
He returned to New Hampshire on Friday to put the finishing touches on a major offensive to overtake Romney and put the senator on a clear path toward winning the nomination.
McCain campaign manager Rick Davis mapped a path to victory in a recent e-mail to supporters.
It calls for a "strong finish" in Iowa, winning the "top spot" in New Hampshire, a "well positioned" showing in Michigan - and capturing South Carolina in the process.
A word of caution about South Carolina. It's not in the bag yet for McCain. Most recent polls have him third or fourth. And no Republican has ever won the party's nomination without first winning the S.C. primary.