On his victory lap after a strong win in New Hampshire last night, John McCain told a crowd at The Citadel that it was South Carolina’s turn to help him win the White House. He gave some limited straight talk that may have stuck a little to heavy to the distant security threats (Iraq, Iran, Pakistan), missing the issue closer to home that South Carolina Republicans are most interested in: immigration.

There was one instant when he sort-of mentioned the immigration debate. He told the crowd that, “We most secure our borders.” There was an uncomfortable pause where the audience didn’t know whether to clap. And then they did … a little.

McCain’s got a good answer to the assertions that he’s soft on immigration. Really. He’ll tell you that he wants to secure our border and figure out who is here and whether they should be allowed to stay. He’ll tell you that he understands voters want the borders secured FIRST and so that’s what he’ll do. The problem is that he’ll only tell you that when prompted.

If he’s going to win South Carolina, he must be proactive with that message.