McCain on 16-Month Iraq Exit

Remember when "timetable" was a dirty word for Republicans?

Back in January of this year, John McCain pilloried Mitt Romney for encouraging President Bush in April of 2007 to develop a private "series of timetables and milestones" for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.

"Timetables was the buzzword for those that wanted to get out," McCain scolded Romney at a Jan. 30th Reagan Library debate.

How the (time)tables have turned.

During a Friday interview with CNN, McCain called a 16-month withdrawal from Iraq "a pretty good timetable."

That answer came when McCain was asked by Wolf Blitzer about the Iraqi prime minister's recent description of a 16-month timetable as "the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes."

Barack Obama, of course, has long favored a 16-month timetable for withdrawal.

Having rankled some voters early in the campaign by signaling his willingness to stay in Iraq for "100 years," McCain has made a series of moves recently to reassure voters that the bulk of U.S. combat troops would not be in Iraq beyond the end of his first term.

In a May 2008 speech laying out his goals for his first term, McCain predicted that "most" U.S. servicemen and women will have been welcomed home by January 2013.

After meeting with President George H.W. Bush on Monday, McCain was asked by a reporter whether it was "conceivable" that sufficient progress could be made to allow for withdrawal of US forces from Iraq in about two years.

McCain answered: "I think largely withdrawn."

While McCain is talking up the possibility of a condition-based speedy withdrawal, his campaign still maintains that there are fundamental differences with Barack Obama on Iraq.

For starters, McCain argues that withdrawal from Iraq would not be possible without the troop surge that he supported and Obama opposed.

The McCain camp also argues that the Arizona senator would give U.S. commanders in Iraq more flexibility than the Democratic nominee.

Although Obama has pledged to consult military leaders, McCain's team believes that the Democratic base would not permit Obama to slow his withdrawal even if he were advised that such a course were necessary.

"What Senator McCain is pointing out is that what's important is making sound decisions based on the conditions on the ground," McCain spokesman Brian Rogers told ABC News. "If that means 16 months, that's great. But if that means 20 months then that's what we'll do."

"The difference," he added, "is what's your goal? Is it victory? Or is it retreat?"

The kicker:

"Wow, me thinks he doth protest too much on that '45' line."

--Huckabee Iowa Campaign Manager Eric Woolson responding in jest to Tim Pawlenty's vigorous assertion that Ken Mehlman was joking when he said that Pawlenty's wife refers to her husband as the 45th president of the United States

Read Pawlenty's exclusive interview with ABC News at ABCNEWS.COM.

SATURDAY, JULY 26

On the campaign front. . .

JOHN MCCAIN

-- 2:45 ET: Speaks via satellite to the National Forum on Disability Issues.

BARACK OBAMA

-- Events in London.

SUNDAY, JULY 27

On the campaign front . . .

BARACK OBAMA

-- 12:00 pm ET: Speaks at the UNITY: Journalists of Color convention, Chicago, IL.

MONDAY, JULY 28

On the campaign front. . .

MICHELE OBAMA

-- 12:00 pm ET: Attends Women For Obama lunch reception, Chicago, IL.

At the White House. . .

PRESIDENT BUSH

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