Republican Sen. John McCain took a Super Tuesday swipe at rival Mitt Romney's conservative credentials and looked past the GOP nomination race to suggest he was well-suited to reach across the aisle to work with Democrats.
Appearing at a San Diego airport hangar with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger before flying to his home state of Arizona, the Republican front-runner noted that both of them had reputations for cooperating with the opposition party when necessary.
"I'll find 'em, I'll find the ones that want to make this nation better," McCain said.
He introduced the crowd of about 150 to his mother, Roberta, who turns 96 on Thursday, "if anyone has any concerns about my age," said McCain. The Arizona senator is 71.
McCain asserted that Romney had "taken at least two positions on every issue" and challenged the Massachusetts governor's economic stewardship of his state.
"I'm the conservative in this race," McCain said, adding that Romney had "a liberal record" as governor.
He also repeated a claim that Romney "wanted to set timetables for withdrawal" from Iraq, a claim Romney has challenged and that cannot be corroborated by Romney's public statements on Iraq. Romney had said that President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki should privately agree to benchmarks and establish a timetable for withdrawal between themselves, but not make it public.
McCain makes a claim in California
As to a possible fall match with either Hillary Rodham Clinton or Barack Obama, McCain said that he had seen the national polls and that they suggested "I defeat Clinton and Obama in a general election matchup."
"I have the ability to attract independents," McCain said.
As to California, McCain said: "I will win California. I will campaign in California. California is a vital state for any Republican who wants to be president of the United States, and you'll be seeing a lot of me in California as the nominee of the Republican Party. We will not write off the state of California."
He responded to criticism of him by some high-profile conservative critics by saying that "a broad array of strong conservatives ... are supporting my candidacy."