updated 8/21/2006 2:06:30 PM ET 2006-08-21T18:06:30

Sen. John McCain, setting the stage for a possible run for president in 2008, campaigned on Monday for fellow Republican Sen. Mike DeWine, who is facing a tough challenge from a Democrat critical of the Iraq war backed by McCain and DeWine.

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McCain said it would be wrong to set a date for troops to be withdrawn from Iraq.

"I have been very critical of the conduct of this conflict from the very beginning," said McCain, who appeared in this Cleveland suburb along with DeWine at a gathering of about 100 people on the western campus of Cuyahoga Community College. "I also believe we can prevail and must prevail."

McCain said if American troops announce a specific date to leave Iraq, insurgents will bide their time until they have an opportunity without interference from the U.S. troops.

"The chaos that would ensue would have direct implications for our national security," McCain said.

DeWine is running against Rep. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from the Cleveland area. Ben Wikler, a spokesman for the Brown campaign, said the campaign was preparing a response to McCain's appearance on DeWine's behalf.

DeWine and McCain were scheduled to appear in the Youngstown area later Monday.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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