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John McCain makes his "change" argument

January 4, 2008 |  8:25 am

Manchester, N.H. -- With John McCain battling not only his fellow Republicans in New Hampshire but also Barack Obama in the fight for the state's precious independent vote -- folks who can cast a ballot in either primary -- he stressed today that he would steal a page from the Illinois Democrat and cast himself as the real "agent of change."

And one of the key points he will spotlight to make his case will be his longstanding support for the increase of the U.S. military involvement in Iraq -- a position that only a few months ago was seen as evidence that time had passed McCain by.

The Arizona senator, in comments to bloggers during a conference call, said he was "very proud" that he had pushed and pushed and pushed President Bush's administration to adopt what became known as the "surge" strategy. He returned to that theme frequently during the conversation, at one point saying the changed policy had "saved America's most precious resource" -- the lives of soldiers.

Not so long ago, it would have been unimaginable that full-throated support for the larger troop presence in Iraq could be a political asset in New Hampshire, where discontent with the war's course fueled sweeping Democratic gains in the 2006 midterm election. But McCain clearly believes the significant drop in U.S. casualties has altered the political dynamics.

He also contined to live up to his reputation as an inveterate movie buff. When one caller said he should be referred to as "Sen. Lazarus," a reference to his seeming rise from the political dead, McCain cracked that his preferred moniker was "I Am Legend."

--  Don Frederick