Senator firm on Iraq  
Presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, left, shakes hands with Army veteran and state Rep. Don Buxton outside Exeter Town Hall on Sunday. Photo by Don Clark
John McCain (R)
Senator, AZ
Born: 08/29/1936
Birthplace: Panama Canal Zone
Home: Phoenix, AZ
Religion: Episcopalian
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EXETER -- Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain and his Straight Talk Express rolled into Exeter Sunday to a standing-room-only crowd.

The four-term senator spoke at a packed Town Hall meeting about many key topics ranging from the war in Iraq to "irresponsible" spending in Washington.

McCain warmed up to supporters in speaking about the importance of the New Hampshire primary, especially in light of how many states are examining shifts to Feb. 5 primary elections.

"My friends, there's only one place in America where we have this kind of participation in the political process -- the retail politics -- which is what is vital to our democracy and the selection of the most important position of the world " and that's here in New Hampshire," he said, adding he would do everything in his power to make sure New Hampshire remains first in the nation.

The senator defended his position on the Iraq war. He noted that many Americans are frustrated that promised success has not occurred, but said America now has one more chance.

"We've got a great general. We've got a new strategy, and I believe that the strategy can work," he said. "Basically, we've gone from a strategy which was failed -- which was "go into a place, kill people and leave' -- to a place where we go in, get rid of the bad people, stay, hold the place and build a democratic, economic and political process."

McCain said to set a date for withdrawal "is to say to the enemy, "Hey, we're leaving on a certain date; just hang on until we go.'"

He also shook his finger at Democratic naysayers, saying those against the war ought to have "the intellectual courage" to cut off funding.

In terms of the 2006 elections, McCain said he believes Republicans didn't lose because of the war, but because voters were tired of seeing funds misappropriated on Capitol Hill.

"I think it's because our Republican base became totally disenchanted and frustrated with our spending," he said. "We let spending get out of control to a degree that led to corruption."

McCain said, if elected, he would veto the first pork-barrel bill to come across his desk and make those responsible known.

Vice Chairwoman of McCain's New Hampshire campaign and Exeter resident Maureen Barrows, who introduced the senator at the Town Hall meeting, said she was impressed with McCain's presentation.

"He tells it like it is, and nobody likes somebody who puts a political spin on things," she said.

Ken Munger of Exeter said after the event that he is still thinking about whom to choose in the primary, but he believes McCain may be the most viable Republican candidate.

Brentwood resident and "die-hard Republican" Joanne Kenyon said she supported McCain in 2000 and believes she will support him in the 2008 election. But because she is socially moderate, Kenyon said, she would like to speak with him one-on-one about certain topics. "But, I'm trusting the man on more than some of the issues," she said.