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Veterans Group Urges Support to 'Finish the Job'

By Michael D. Shear
Sen. John McCain will get some battleground-state help this week from Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, who appear in a television commercial aimed at convincing the public that the United States is winning in Iraq.

Produced by Vets for Freedom, an organization of veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the ad will run in Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, and on cable nationwide. The group, with about 20,000 members, will spend $1.5 million on what it calls the first of many spots during the next month.

"As an organization, we have four months here, a window of opportunity of heightened awareness," said the group's chairman, Pete Hegseth, himself an Iraq vet. "We think it's crucial that the success our troops have made on the battlefield is relayed to the American public."

The ad features eight veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and the mother of a soldier in Iraq. "We changed strategy in Iraq," one of the soldiers says in the ad. "And the surge worked. Now that's change we can believe in. We need to finish the job. ... no matter who is president."

Hegseth said his group is not operating on behalf of McCain and notes that federal law prohibits the organization from coordinating the ad with the campaign. The states were chosen, he said, not because they are crucial swing states for McCain, but because the heightened interest in the election in those states will give it a larger audience.

"We're going to tap into that heightened awareness," he said, noting that his organization has supported several Democratic candidates in the past year or so. "It's not an attack on anybody.
We're not taking on any presidential candidates."

Hegseth conceded that the message in the ad is almost identical to McCain's on the stump -- the surge worked; let's continue the war until we win. He said McCain has been the "strongest advocate" for the veterans of the two wars.

"We would hope that success in Iraq would benefit everybody," he said.

By Post Editor  |  July 6, 2008; 9:00 AM ET
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