The Washington Times - April 6, 2011, 12:02PM

Sen. John McCain, offering advice to those looking to succeed him as the Republican standard-bearer in 2012,  said the GOP’s field of White House hopefuls should confront whatever albatrosses are hanging around their necks early.

“I think you have to take the issue head on, and put it behind you,” the Arizona Republican said at a breakfast with reporters hosted by The Christian Science Monitor.

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For former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, that means putting to bed any questions related to the state health care plan he supported and the individual mandate that conservatives generally despise.

“Obviously, he’s going to have to confront the issues of the Massachusetts health care,” Mr. McCain said. “Others may have areas that I don’t even know about, but they have to identify them early and address them early … One thing you don’t want is it lingering and continuing, story after story.”

Mr. McCain said campaign teams and internal pollsters should get out in front of possible problems by doing opposition research on their candidate to identify and address questions that could derail a campaign.

He also took a thinly-veiled shot at President Obama, saying, “Maybe this time, the electorate is interested in someone who has a proven record, rather than rhetoric.”

The 2008 Republican nominee said he would not be a candidate in 2012.