URBANDALE, Iowa — John McCain on Sunday assured Iowa supporters that he's doing fine and intends to seriously compete in the state's leadoff caucuses despite staff cuts and money problems.
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The Republican presidential candidate met privately with supporters, then held a news conference at his Iowa campaign headquarters.
"I'm happy about the state of our campaign," the Arizona senator told reporters. "We will do fine. We are competitive and we will win in Iowa."
McCain said he met with backers to let them know his campaign was strong.
"I wanted to make sure that everybody knows what we are doing and get an update on the campaign and how we intend to stay heavily involved here in Iowa," he said.
At his news conference, McCain brusquely cut off questions about the disarray in his campaign and its fundraising difficulties.
"I will not respond to any more questions about process," said McCain. "I did for two weeks. I cut down at least three forests worth of paper being written about it. I'll answer all questions but that."
First visit since early June
McCain's visit to Iowa was his first since June 9. He was scheduled to appear on a conservative talk radio program Monday before heading to Michigan.
In remarks he planned to give Monday evening to the Economic Club of Southwest Michigan in Benton Harbor, McCain is pledging to repeal the alternative minimum tax.
"I am committed to repealing this tax before millions of American families are forced to devote even more of their hard work to paying for the spending largesse in Washington," McCain says in excerpts of his speech released by his campaign.
He also vows to hold down government spending with line-item vetoes. McCain says he wouldn't wait to get the line-item veto, which the Supreme Court struck down in 1998, saying it took too much spending power away from Congress.
"I believe the president should have the line item veto as 43 governors have, and I'll fight to get it," McCain says.
Chuck Larson Jr., the former chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa and a key adviser to McCain's Iowa campaign, said its staff has been reduced to about a half-dozen. That's far fewer than his major rivals.
McCain said he's shifted his focus to the key early election states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
"I'm still convinced that the three early states will determine the nominee of both the Democratic and Republican parties," he said. "There is not a doubt in my mind about that."
No change on Iraq war stance
McCain has been hurt by his support of the increasingly unpopular war in Iraq, but said his position won't change.
"I will hold that stand no matter what," said McCain. "I think there's frustration and it's all very understandable. The war was terribly mismanaged for four years."
There was little grousing among the loyalists who showed up at his campaign headquarters.
"There have been changes in the campaign, but that's what we call inside baseball," said Larson. "I think he is in a very good position. We are six months out."
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