In N.M., McCain Questions Obama's Judgment

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain campaigned Wednesday in Las Cruces, N.M. At a town hall meeting there, he criticized Barack Obama for opposing last year's troop surge in Iraq. He also answered questions from the audience about his vice president pick.

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SCOTT HORSLEY: And I'm Scott Horsley. John McCain isn't retreating from his daily assaults on Barack Obama. He's been criticizing his Democratic rival for opposing last year's troop surge in Iraq and his plan to withdraw U.S. forces over a 16-month period. McCain insists he's not questioning Obama's patriotism, but rather his judgment.

Senator JOHN MCCAIN (Republican, Arizona; Presidential Candidate): He's made these decisions, not because he doesn't love America, but because he doesn't think it matters whether America wins or loses. I'm going to end this war and I'm going to bring them home and they'll come home with honor and victory, leaving Iraq secure as a democratic ally in the Arab heartland. That's what I'm going to do.

(Soundbite of applause)

HORSLEY: It was a mostly friendly crowd that greeted McCain yesterday at a town hall meeting in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Even though Democrats outnumber Republicans in that part of the state, McCain got his toughest questions from the right.

Unidentified Man: Are you going to pick a vice president that conservatives can actually rally around in the future, or are you going to give us someone who will cause us to want to stay home, perhaps?

HORSLEY: Conservative talk radio hosts and their fans have been alarmed by the idea that McCain would even consider a running mate who supports abortion rights. The Arizona senator tried to reassure those skeptics, while offering few details about the selection process itself.

Sen. MCCAIN: I will choose, I will nominate a person to be vice president, my running mate, who shares my principles, my values and my priorities.

HORSLEY: In addition to social conservatives, McCain says he's working to energize those who are hawkish in government spending and national defense. McCain says he's confident, based on the polls he's reading, that he'll have strong support from his Republican base.

Scott Horsley, NPR News.

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