updated 4/26/2007 10:48:02 AM ET 2007-04-26T14:48:02

Presidential contender John McCain joined the growing number of Republicans calling for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales step down in the furor over the firings of eight federal prosecutors.

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"I am very disappointed in his performance," McCain, R-Ariz., said Wednesday when asked about the attorney general in an interview with CNN's Larry King. "I think loyalty to the president should enter into his calculations."

When pressed about whether Gonzales should resign, McCain responded: "I think that out of loyalty to the president that that would probably be the best thing that he could do."

Earlier, on his campaign bus after announcing his presidential bid in New Hampshire, McCain hinted at which way he was leaning, telling reporters he would talk about Gonzales on Thursday because he didn't want to overtake his campaign announcement. He taped the interview in Concord, N.H., mid-Wednesday and it aired in the evening.

McCain became the first Republican presidential contender to urge Gonzales to resign, and the fourth Republican senator to do so, joining Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Gordon Smith of Oregon and John Sununu of New Hampshire.

Several others have stopped short of demanding Gonzales's resignation but have harshly criticized his leadership.

Bush has given Gonzales a strong vote of confidence and the attorney general himself has vowed to remain in his post despite bipartisan criticism of his leadership.

At a contentious Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week, Gonzales claimed dozens of times that he couldn't recall key details about the firings or about a meeting that records show he attended.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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