McCain makes final appeal to Iowa voters

URBANDALE, Iowa – Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) returned to Iowa one last time Wednesday, hoping for a strong finish in Thursday’s caucuses that might spark momentum heading into New Hampshire.

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McCain said at a press conference after a packed event here that he does not know how he will finish in Iowa, but he thinks he is doing well. The consensus here on the ground is that a third-place finish behind former Gov. Mike Huckabee (Ark.) and former Gov. Mitt Romney (Mass.) would be a shot in the arm for the Arizona senator ahead of next week’s primary.

While McCain boasted that he has secured a great deal of newspaper endorsements and support from volunteers, he acknowledged that the first caucus state is still an uphill climb.

“We do have a long, hard fight here in Iowa, and we know that,” he said.

McCain was joined on the stump by GOP Sens. Sam Brownback (Kan.), John Thune (S.D.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.).

McCain and his Senate colleagues took the stage and continued the McCain campaign’s assault on Romney, who they say lacks the foreign policy experience to be president.

“Call me old fashioned; I think foreign policy experience matters,” Graham said.

McCain’s colleagues and the senator made the case that of all the GOP candidates, only the Arizona senator has the foreign policy experience to be president, and they all repeated that he wouldn’t need “on the job training.”

“I know Pakistan. I know Israel,” McCain said. “I know these countries. I know these leaders. I need no on the job training. I’m ready to serve.”

McCain flew around a state Wednesday that he skipped in his failed bid in 2000. The senator has continued to enjoy a lukewarm relationship with the state for his disapproval of ethanol subsidies and perceived support of amnesty for illegal immigrants.

But the crowd at his headquarters here and some encouraging poll numbers have led the campaign to exhibit a degree of hope for how McCain might finish in Iowa.

After seeing his political obituary everywhere following a mid-summer campaign implosion, the campaign has been buoyed in recent days by polls showing McCain challenging Romney for a win in New Hampshire.

A strong finish in Iowa coupled with a Romney loss to Huckabee could be just the edge McCain needs to put him over the top in the Granite State.

“We need momentum,” Graham told the crowd. “You all are going to affect how things happen in other places.

“Send him out of here with as much momentum as you can.”

McCain is scheduled to continue touring the state Thursday morning, but his schedule calls for him to fly out of Iowa before the caucuses Thursday night.

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