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McCain sees Bush suffering hard times

Senator John McCain told MSNBC in an exclusive interview late Friday that President Bush is having difficulties right now and that Republicans should stand beside him.

“He's having trouble right now. We Republicans all know that. That’s when he needs us to stand by him. He doesn’t need us when his numbers are 65. He needs us now," McCain said in an exclusive interview with Hardball after addressing the Southern Republican Leadership Conference Friday evening in Memphis. "That’s my only message," McCain said.

The Arizona senator, who was defeated by Bush for the Republican presidential nomination in

2000, made the comments in explaining his call for conference delegates to “write-in” Bush's name in Saturday's straw poll vote here.

In the interview, McCain criticized those in Congress who rejected the Bush administration’s sale of port operations in six American cities to a state-owned company in the United Arab
Emirates.

The senator said public opinion on the port issue may be swinging back, characterizing the UAE as a friend in a strategic location.