MCCain returns to Iowa with polls showing surge

Washington Post:

A jet carrying Sen. John McCain of Arizona touched down Wednesday evening on Iowa's western border, marking a remarkable comeback for the veteran politician and opening another intriguing narrative in the wide-open Republican field.

McCain had been left for dead politically this summer, and now his decision to return to a state he skipped altogether in his 2000 bid for the White House is one of the many signs that the GOP contest for president is still in search of a front-runner.

McCain has surged back into a strong second place in New Hampshire, where former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, the GOP front-runner there, returned Wednesday in the hope of shoring up his eroding poll numbers. The two men traded angry, long-distance insults that signaled an abrupt end to the convivial Christmas messages that Republican hopefuls offered voters last week.

As McCain descended on Iowa, other GOP candidates also sought to break out of the pack. Former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani announced plans to air an advertisement on national television that highlights his leadership after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and focuses on the threat of Islamic terrorism. Former senator Fred D. Thompson of Tennessee continued his extended bus tour of Iowa, hoping that he can edge out Giuliani and McCain for a third-place finish to revitalize his lackluster campaign. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee sought to broaden his conservative appeal beyond church pews in Iowa by hunting pheasant, and he bagged a bird while reporters watched.

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Giuliani's new ad comes as his candidacy faces growing questions about a strategy that has played down Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan and South Carolina in favor of a major push to win Florida's Jan. 29 primary and then sweep many of the big states that hold contests on Feb. 5. Giuliani spent Wednesday in Florida, where he met with veterans at an American Legion post in Largo.

"We've always known this is an unorthodox strategy," campaign manager Mike DuHaime said. "If we had listened to conventional wisdom a year ago, Rudy never would have run. We've never bought into conventional wisdom. We're going to stick to our plan."

McCain still trails in Iowa -- most polls peg his support in the single digits -- in part because of his opposition to ethanol subsidies and his support of immigration reform. But armed with an endorsement from the Des Moines Register and buoyed by his success in New Hampshire, McCain on Wednesday launched a three-day tour of Iowa's rural towns.

...

If McCain is moving up that much in Iowa, it is a real sign of volatility in the race. Or, perhaps it is a sign of how difficult polling can be in Iowa caucuses. Romney has been the main candidate willing to go negative in this race and he has dragged some of the other candidates into that mud and McCain appears to be getting enough attention to get that treatment again. He is to some extent a target rich environment with his stands on campaign finance reform, tax cuts and immigration reform. But he gets the biggest issue, the war in Iraq correct and that may save him.

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