Associated Press - McCain Turns To SC Veterans, Patriotism To Get Campaign On Track
By Jim Davenport, AP
September 14, 2007
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Republican presidential hopeful John McCain has retooled his campaign and is preparing for a weekend blitz across much of South Carolina, hoping support for the troops here will make him more competitive with front-runners Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson.
McCain may have reason to be optimistic in this early voting state, which is home to 420,000 veterans and several military installations, including the Army's largest training base. And just this week, Thompson's much-anticipated debut here drew half the crowd of 800 that McCain saw when he launched his campaign in February.
But that was when the Arizona senator was a front-runner. Since then, support has floundered in the wake of unpopular immigration legislation he touted and overspending that depleted campaign accounts, Emory University political scientist Merle Black said.
McCain is "trying to put together a campaign after his first strategies and tactics disintegrated," Black said. "He's got to win back a lot of the voters that he may have had. ... It's very hard to get those supporters back."
This week McCain may have gotten a boost, given the high-profile report by Gen. David Petraeus, who said the seven-month-old troop escalation in Iraq was mostly a success. From the war's start, McCain has argued for more troops and he was one of the most prominent supporters of the increase that President Bush announced in January.
That is the backdrop for his flag-waving "No Surrender" tour in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
There are 11 stops planned here that include VFW posts, barbecues, the Pee Dee Patriotic Parade and a final rally at The Citadel, the state-run military college in Charleston.
McCain is counting on his message resonating with veterans in South Carolina, which has nearly as many former service members as Iowa and New Hampshire combined.