By Jim Tankersley
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) isn't playing heavily in Iowa, though he'll make a cameo caucus-eve appearance tonight. He's spent the week in New Hampshire, where he's increasingly framing the presidential race in national security terms and questioning opponent Mitt Romney's foreign policy fitness.
McCain's central argument is that his military service and Senate tenure qualify him uniquely in the presidential field to handle the global terrorism threat. In town hall meetings he often punctuates his remarks with references to a foiled terror plot in Great Britain and the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan last week.
McCain is a Vietnam veteran who was held as a prison of war after his plane was shot down. In the Senate, he's been one of the most consistent champions of the Iraq war. He advocated a so-called troop "surge" strategy long before President Bush adopted it, a strategy he tells crowds is now bringing down violence in Iraq and putting al Qaeda "on the run."
In a pair of Web videos this week, McCain has contrasted his foreign policy background with Romney, a former Massachusetts governor whom polls show neck and neck with McCain in New Hampshire. He's mocked Romney's recent statements that when it comes to the White House "if we want somebody who has a lot of experience in foreign policy we can simply go to the State Department."
"Is he serious?" the latest Web ad, released today, asks. " We live in a dangerous world. And these are serious times. America needs a President who is serious about foreign policy. John McCain is he one man prepared to lead America in a time of crisis."