McCain Keeps Up Iraq Attack on Obama

Wilkes-Barre, PA -- Sen. John McCain today continued his stepped-up criticism of his Democratic rival's position on the war in Iraq, saying Sen. Barack Obama would "rather lose a war in order to win a campaign."

Speaking at a "Straight Talk Town Hall" event here, McCain reiterated the accusation he made Tuesday in New Hampshire as he sought votes in a region of Pennsylvania that went heavily for Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary.

Reminding his audience that critics said his early support for more troops in Iraq would doom his presidential hopes, McCain recalled, "I said I would rather lose a campaign than lose a war."

The "surge" has been credited with reducing violence in Iraq to its lowest levels since the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein's regime.

"Senator Obama said that the strategy of the surge would not succeed. He said it was doomed to fail. He said there would be an increase in sectarian violence. He still, to this day, has said that the surge is not succeeding," McCain told a crowd of about 900 people at the morning event at the F.M. Kirby Center in downtown Wilkes-Barre.

"It's a remarkable failure to understand the facts on the ground. So, apparently, Senator Obama would rather lose the war in order to win a campaign," he said.

Similar remarks by McCain during a Tuesday appearance in Rochester, N.H., were denounced by many critics, including Time magazine columnist Joe Klein, who called it a "scurrilous statement" that "smacks of desperation."

The repeated attack on Obama -- who is currently in the midst of a weeklong foreign trip -- appears part of a newly aggressive approach for the McCain campaign, which recently reshuffled staff and brought in former Bush political operative Steve Schmidt as a senior advisor.

The visit to Wilkes-Barre represents a key opportunity for McCain to flip a Democratic blue state to Republican red. In the April 22 Democratic primary, surrounding Luzerne County voted 3-to-1 for Clinton over Obama, and clearly the McCain campaign hopes to win over Clinton Democrats in a potential swing state that Bush narrowly lost to John Kerry in 2004. A June Rassmussen poll showed Obama with a four-point lead over McCain in Pennsylvania.