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McCain's Closing Argument

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By Juliet Eilperin ABOARD THE YORKTOWN -- Standing on the deck of a decommissioned aircraft carrier docked in the Port of Charleston, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) tonight made the closing sales pitch for his close friend, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). On Saturday South Carolinians have the "awesome responsibility" of choosing "the military leader of the country," Graham said, and one candidate was best qualified to lead American troops stationed abroad.

"Whose ready to lead them on day one?" he asked.

"John McCain!" the crowd of several hundred responded.

"Who has walked in their shoes?"

"John McCain!"

"Who speaks their language?"

"John McCain!"

"Who's going to lead them to victory?"

"John McCain!"

McCain and his supporters spoke about other policy priorities, such as fighting child pornography on the Internet and cutting federal spending. But above all, the senator and his allies spoke of his national security expertise and military experience. Cindy McCain told the audience for the sake of her two sons in the military and the other men and women serving abroad, "Send my husband to the White House. Please."

Unlike in New Hampshire, where undecided voters would frequently turn up at McCain events, this was a crowd of stalwart supporters. Pete Hegseth, a member of the group Vets for Freedom, recalled how he and other veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan worked to convince members of Congress to continue funding the war there. "The one who was with us the most was John McCain, Hegseth said. "He's seen it before, and he knows the stakes. He was a lone voice in the wilderness."

Former Texas senator Phil Gramm said that "every candidate running for president wants change. But yet none of these other candidates tell us what change they had wrought. John McCain changed the war in Iraq, and we would be losing that war today if it were not for his courage."

McCain spoke to the same themes, detailing how he criticized then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for mishandling the war and fought Democrats who wanted to pull out of Iraq altogether. "We went on the road, and we beat their effort to surrender to Al-Qaeda," he said.
In closing, he promised his supporters he would win a war that the current administration has yet to finish.

"We are in challenging times," he said. "My friends, we will never surrender. They will." And the crowd cheered.

By Web Politics Editor  |  January 18, 2008; 7:50 PM ET
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