Iraq called crucial for McCain

COLUMBIA - Positive news from Iraq could be the spark John McCain needs to relight his presidential campaign, said Blease Graham, a University of South Carolina political scientist.


"I think it's essential, really," Mr. Graham said. "As much as he has identified himself with the Iraq war, despite recent criticisms."

The top U.S. military commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker are to report on progress in Iraq next month.

Mr. McCain has the political support of a large portion of South Carolina's GOP establishment, including House Speaker Bobby Harrell, Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell and Attorney General Henry McMaster.

But he has lagged behind his Republican rivals in national polls, and his fundraising has been a disappointment so far this year - in large part, analysts said, because of Mr. McCain's call for increasing troops in a now-unpopular war and his support for a comprehensive immigration bill that failed earlier this year.

Mr. McCain's mantra has become "I'd rather lose a campaign than lose a war."

But speaking to the media in Columbia on Monday, after meeting with the city's Rotarians, Mr. McCain brushed aside a question regarding how next month's Iraq report will impact his campaign.

Mr. McCain expects Gen. Petraeus to say that the troop-surge strategy is working.

"He's going to recommend, I'm sure, that we continue with this strategy, because I was just over there not long ago," Mr. McCain said. "So I will hope that my colleagues and the American people have the patience to continue their support."

Bad news from Iraq next month will challenge the McCain campaign, Mr. Graham said. "And that challenge is going to be measured in fundraising."

Reach Kirsten Singleton at (803) 414-6611 or


- Mr. McCain's visit to Columbia was followed by a stop in Charleston. He is scheduled to speak and take questions about Social Security and health-care issues at an AARP event at 9 a.m. today in Port Royal, at the AmVets Post 70, 1831 Ribaut Road. - Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani campaigns in Aiken today before heading to Columbia. Mr. Giuliani is scheduled to speak at about 9:15 a.m. today at the H. Odell Weeks Activities Center, 1700 Whiskey Road.