Sen. John McCain Resurges in Iowa

Presidential hopeful McCain, R-Ariz., pegs his campaign on support for war

ByABC News
January 8, 2009, 1:03 AM

Sept. 12, 2007 — -- If a presidential campaign is a game of high-stakes poker, when it comes to the president's troop surge plan, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is going "all-in."

"I choose to win, I choose to stay, I choose to support these men and women," McCain said Wednesday while campaigning in Sioux City, Iowa.

There is nothing subtle about it. An internal campaign strategy memo calls on McCain to "take ownership of the surge."

The Arizona senator is launching a three state "No Surrender" tour, on his "No Surrender" campaign bus.

Just a few months ago, McCain was written off by some political professionals because of his dwindling bank account and defecting campaign staff.

However, the clear message on the "No Surrender" tour is that he is not about to surrender his political campaign.

During an exclusive interview with ABC News, McCain explained how his political strategy is inextricably linked with his position on Iraq.

"I am sure there is a political element, because if we're able to succeed in Iraq, I think those of us who supported it would receive credit for supporting it," McCain said.

The senator said his early criticism of the initial Bush war effort, and his early call for a troop increase, is what separates him from his Republican opponents.

"I certainly advocated it long before, they had any knowledge of it," McCain said.

"I was the only one of the Republican candidates that spoke bitterly against Rumsfeld's strategy, which I knew was doomed to failure," he said, " I was criticized severely by Republicans because I criticized Rumsfeld's strategy."

Early on, McCain criticized the administration for not putting sufficient forces in Iraq to meet military objectives.

The simple truth is that we do not have sufficient forces in Iraq to meet our military objectives," McCain said in November 2003.

Now, the former Vietnam prisoner of war is barnstorming through three states in seven days, holding 19 events at veterans of foreign war posts and American legion halls surrounded by veterans.

There are signs this new message might be working.

"Republicans are giving him a second look," said Rich Lowry of the National Review. "They're reminded about what they always liked about John McCain, his stalwartness, his credentials on national security."

"I have seen a significant increase in enthusiasm and the turnouts in townhall meetings, and from my experience that's kind of a precursor in increasing traction in a campaign," McCain told ABC News.