McCain attacks Dems in New Hampshire

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Presidential hopeful Senator John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat Meghan McCain knocks Bannon: 'Who the hell are you' to criticize Romney? Dems demand Tillerson end State hiring freeze, consult with Congress MORE (R-Ariz.) berated Democrats for espousing what he believes is a defeatist mindset on the war in Iraq this weekend as he swung through this pivotal battleground for the nomination.

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“The progress in Iraq is real and it’s a shame some media outlets haven’t recognized that,” McCain said as he greeted voters at the Littleton Diner in Littleton, N.H. Sunday. “Democrats want to surrender; they want to set a date for withdraw.”

The senator acknowledged that he has been politically tied to General Petraeus’ surge strategy and criticized Democratic presidential hopeful former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) for calling it the “McCain surge.” Edwards and others, he said, “don’t call it that anymore now that we’re succeeding.”

“I’ve been ridiculed” for supporting the war, McCain told his audience. But “those same Democrats declared the war lost. So they have a credibility problem.”

McCain’s stop at the train-car dinner in the small New Hampshire town surrounded by snow-capped mountains was the first of three campaign events. The diner filled as McCain made his way through the restaurant’s crowded single aisle, shaking every hand of the roughly 40 customers in the diner.

He told voters and reporters that he recognizes the importance of the New Hampshire primary in deciding the Republican nominee and appeared focused on again winning the state where he stunned President Bush in 2000.

It is an uphill battle, though. McCain has sat third in most New Hampshire polls for the majority of the primary season. In the most recent CBS News/New York Times poll released Nov. 12, however, he drew even with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani at 16 percent. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney garnered 34 percent and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee came in fourth, well behind McCain and Giuliani, with 6 percent.

The McCain camp is trying to emphasize this momentum. The biographical film screened before his town hall meetings, for example, shows clips of political pundits and commentators calling him the “Comeback Kid.”

Some voters in New Hampshire are noticing the new campaign and others are remembering why they liked him in 2000. Marcel Martel, a 56-year-old Littleton resident, jumped up from his seat to shake the senator’s hand when McCain came to his table at the Littleton Diner.

“I’m a Democrat,” he said, “But you’re the man.”

Martel said later in an interview that he voted for McCain eight years ago and was considering voting for him again this year.

“I vote for the person I believe will best lead the country,” he said. McCain is “a man of integrity. He’s a savvy politician with a good grasp of the issues.”

“He’s a leader,” Martel added.

McCain’s “Straight Talk Express” then rolled up to the Northern Meadow Senior Center in North Haverhill for a town hall meeting. Standing on a small square stage slightly elevated in the middle of the room, McCain delivered his standard stump speech, touching on issues of government corruption, climate change and Iraq.

Guy Simmons saw McCain at the town hall and said that he supports McCain because he agrees with his position on Iraq.

Simmons, 49, said McCain believes “if we do that job over there, it can’t happen here.”

He added that while he does not support preemptive strikes, he does not want to wait for another terrorist attack to occur in the United States before taking military action.

Simmons, who is from North Haverhill, added that his wife is supporting Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) campaign. Simmons shook McCain’s hand after the meeting and asked him for his autograph. McCain wrote to Simmons’ wife, instead of him.

“To Deborah, best wishes, John McCain,” the note read, “P.S. Switch!”

McCain finished the day at another town hall meeting at Dartmouth College in Hanover. A standing room only crowd of between 200 and 300 filled the Alumni Hall to see McCain and pose questions.

Congressman Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), whose district McCain represented when he was in the House, introduced McCain to the energetic crowd.

McCain again touched on Iraq, saying that he was the only presidential candidate to say the “Rumsfeld strategy [was] doomed to failure” when it was implemented.

At the end of the event the crowd warmly applauded. When asked about the prospects of McCain turning the campaign around, Flake did not mince words.

“He’s certainly got a second wind,” he said.