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McCain: 'The Contest Begins Tonight'

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Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) addresses his supporters from Dallas Tuesday after Huckabee's withdrawal from the race.

By Peter Slevin
DALLAS -- Sen. John McCain gave a speech he has been wanting to give for nearly a decade tonight, claiming the Republican presidential nomination and the chance to duel Sen. Barack Obama or Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in what promises to be a tense battle for the White House.

In a speech to hundreds of well-heeled supporters in a Dallas ballroom, McCain etched his strategy for the upcoming campaign, focusing first on Iraq and Afghanistan and what he called "a long and difficult fight with violent extremists who despise us, our values and modernity itself."

McCain, 71, is positioning himself as the steady hand, a role that Clinton has been rehearsing for months against Obama -- her bid for a triumph of experience over hope. In McCain's case, he talks of his times as a Navy flyer in Vietnam and his 25 years in the Senate, where he developed a national security specialty.

On Iraq, where he has hitched his candidacy to the bid to stabilize the country, he insisted that the upcoming debate should not be about how the United States launched the 2003 invasion or botched the aftermath, but what to do now. If Obama wins the nomination, he has already made clear, he will challenge McCain on his support for the war in 2003, and now.

"The next president must explain," he said, "how he or she intends to bring that war to the swiftest possible conclusion without exacerbating a sectarian conflict that could quickly descend into genocide, destabilizing the entire Middle East...and emboldening terrorists to attack us elsewhere with weapons we dare not allow them to possess."

McCain defended free trade and worker training, as well as "giving parents choices about their children's education that they do not have now." He promised a campaign that would make a "respectful, determined and convincing case" to American voters.

"So stand up with me, my friends," McCain concluded, "stand up and fight for America -- for her strength, her ideals and her future. The contest begins tonight."

With that, balloons fell, confetti flew and a happy warrior waded into the crowd.

By Web Politics Editor  |  March 4, 2008; 11:22 PM ET
Categories:  John McCain , Primaries , The GOP  
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Next: Clinton: Millions More Want Their Turn


Patriot12, well said! :-)

I would like to add that in Construction and Services, there is a HUGE misunderstanding about the so-called "Need" for Visas for Foreign Workers.

The Employer's claims that they cannot find Legal Workers to fill the jobs, is simply NOT True. They want the Foreigners locked in on a Visa, that effectively makes them Slaves, at a low price, while the "Slaves" cost the surrounding Communities the "Perks" the Employer would have to be paying an American Worker.

This Form of Legal Employment, is in some ways worse than the Hiring of Un-documenteds. You can't fine the Visa'ed Worker's Employer!

Both, have DESTROYED the American Middle Class, and what used to be competitive Wages!

Then, Yes, we do try to be a Fair and Just Nation when it comes to allowing Immigration. We need to start by throwing all the one's who have cut in line of the Immigrants doing it right so when they finally arrive, they will still have a place to come to! This includes all Children wrongly granted US Citizenship to Parents who had no business being here dropping Babies! (Illegals and Transients(Bridgewalkers)).

ENFORCE the LAWS! Verify W-4 Conformity!

Posted by: rat-the | March 5, 2008 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Congratulations Senator McCain on acheiving last night's remarkable victory. You have waited a very long time for this. As someone who voted for you in the Virgnia Primary, I applaud the way in which you conducted the primary season with so much honor and integrity.

Moving forward, some heartefelt advice:

1) Choose a superstar as a vice-presidential running mate, not a state governor no one has ever heard of. Your age is not a real issue because you have a youthful persona. Today's 71 is yesterday's 60. You need someone with stature and gravitas not youth.

2) Hire Peggy Noonan as your speechwriter.

3) Do not read off teleprompters for your speeches or at least rely on them less.

4) Focus on the economy. This could be a problem in the fall. Know for example that gas may cost $4.00 per gallon in the spring.

5) Refine the Iraq message more.

I look forward to voting for you this fall and attending your Inaugural Address next year.

Posted by: Tuesdayrose | March 5, 2008 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Dear John McCain - I hope your staffers are reading the comments today.
I belong to a small Virginia network, and a few other states, of conservative independents, disenfranchised Republicans and some disillusioned Democrats.

You brag about your record of victory in Iraq and security for the US. That reeks of hypocrisy given your proposed "Bill Richardson build more bridges", "state certification" of border security and your open embrace of amnesty and "citizenship sales" for 30 million illegal aliens. Wave the red white and blue Senator but do it consistently. Stop waiving the white flag on our southern border. If you do that, you will gain many supporters. No surrender. No Sale of citizenship to those who refuse to respect this nation's laws and sovereignty.

As for Iraq, as you say, casualties do matter. But the tax payer's money you intend to spend also matters. If you plan to stay a Century in Iraq, then reduce troop strength and monetary burdens in Germany or Korea to compensate for expenditures in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bring our money home. We need it as much as the Iraqis.

You talk about free trade agreements. We urge you to adopt Duncan Hunter's position on FAIR Trade, instead of Free Trade agreements. Cancel NAFTA and start over. You also need to explain your position on the NAFTA Superhighway and Bush's SPP legacy. If you fail to demonstrate your respect for the SOVEREINTY of this nation, you will lose a few votes in Virginia.

You talk about comprehensive Immigration Reform yet NEVER mention the "Numbers" of people you would add to America under your plan - how many more Guest Workers and how many more Illegal alien chain immigrants each year do you propose? Our national water supplies continue to dwindle and our nation is turning into an over developed pro growth urban slum. Prove to us Senator that you would pledge a future immigration policy based on a reasonable manageable annual number of new immigrants. Prove to us that your support for guest worker programs would not deprive our children of their post college jobs at a First World salary. Prove to us your fidelity and fairness to Americans first.

You have a long way to go Senator to gain our trust and support. None of us will vote for you unless you make an effort to rightfully address our concerns.

Posted by: Patriot12 | March 5, 2008 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Please Sen. McCain no stupid VP selection, major health issues, hidden girl friends or donors and have a clear set of promises oops, policies--$4.00 a gallon is a major problem. Make a clear statement on the War; remember that less than 12% of Americans support it. Built on the fact that with Hillary you get Bill and another Motel 6 in the White House and the job is yours.

Good luck.

Posted by: KBlit | March 5, 2008 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Okay! It begins tonight! Let's see John start scrambling to explain Cindy, her drug problems, her father, her father's connections to Charles Keating, her husband's connections to Charles Keating, etc. And John's ex-wife, and the Cindy connection! There's a lot of interesting history to be unravelled here, which will soon be.... 'Twill make Shakespeare blush, at being so cautious in Macbeth!

Posted by: thrh | March 5, 2008 1:06 AM | Report abuse

John McCain though is not one to bring them together and is seen by many as another version of president Bush- whom has terrible approval ratings.

Plus, he is not stacking up well against Obama or Hillary even:

Obama vs. McCain- The Google Factor:

Posted by: davidmwe | March 5, 2008 12:20 AM | Report abuse

Oops. Forgot to add something.

After you all get it together, Throw Bushie some Bones! :-)

Posted by: rat-the | March 4, 2008 11:34 PM | Report abuse

I would love to see the Republican Contenders now come together as a TEAM. There was a very good reason the support was so divided.

First Tancredo, then Giuliani, Thompson and even a very strong contender, Mitt Romney all conceded to enable the early victory obtained, don't waste it!

The Team has it's Coach. the Assistant Coach in my opinion based on the compliments of strengths he adds, is CLEARLY Mitt Romney.

But, as Dr.Krauthammer also pointed out, ALL Contenders can be used in a Team Effort! A Cabinet needs Filling, and has Colin had enough time off? ;~)

Posted by: rat-the | March 4, 2008 11:30 PM | Report abuse

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