Despite the vast unpopularity of the war in Iraq and John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP rushes to cut ties to Moore GOP strategist: 'There needs to be a repudiation' of Roy Moore by Republicans World leaders reach agreement on trade deal without United States: report MORE's parroting of the Bush position, recent polling has the candidates even on who would do the better job of handling the war. This is because McCain is seen, by a very wide margin, as the best at being commander in chief.

So Barack Obama has a dilemma. He gained initial traction in the primaries largely by outflanking Hillary on the war and showcasing his early opposition. But the more he speaks about the war now, the more he makes national security and foreign policy the major issue of the election. And there is no way that can help him.

In making his trip to the Middle East next week, Obama is gambling mightily. While each day's photo-ops will help him to burnish his credentials in this crucial respect, it will just make it too clear that McCain would be the better man to handle these situations. Obama may win the day, but McCain will win the topic.