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Fresh off his Saturday Saddleback triumph, John McCain attacks on Iraq

August 18, 2008 |  9:45 am

To the surprise of many, John McCain seemed in his element Saturday at the candidate forum Rick Warren conducted at Orange County's Saddleback Church.

As Peter Hamby notes today at CNN.com, McCain's supposed reluctance to discuss his faith was not evident; indeed, he told the evangelical audience that he had been "saved and forgiven" by Christ. Adds the MSNBC political shop: "We seriously underestimated how Saturday’s religious forum was made to order for McCain, despite the perceptions that McCain rarely talks openly about his faith. On all the questions regarding hot-button social issues, the Arizona senator didn’t have to depart from GOP orthodoxy one bit, except on stem cells."

To the surprise of no one, McCain was definitely in his element this morning as he spoke to the annual convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

He returned, with relish, to the theme he had stressed during Barack Obama's overseas trip last month: that he was right in strongly advocating last year's surge in U.S. troop deployment in Iraq, while his rival was wrong in strongly opposing it and is having a hard time admitting that.

McCain didn't quite reprise the charge he made while Obama was stopping in Iraq -- that his foe would rather win the White House than win a war. But he walked right up to that line, saying: "Behind all of these claims and positions by Sen. Obama (on Iraq) lies the ambition to be president."

Our colleague Mark Silva at the Swamp has more on McCain's speech; Michael Muskal and Maeve Reston have a story at LATtimes.com.

Obama appears before the VFW on Tuesday.

-- Don Frederick

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