Yes, Even McCain Does the State Fair

The Arizona senator knows the value of huffing through the Iowa State Fair.

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Last week, John McCain's campaign staffers insisted the senator had no plans to travel to Iowa this week for an appearance at the Iowa State Fair, a traditional must for presidential candidates—even beleaguered ones—hoping to play in the pivotal Iowa caucuses in January.

He'll be out promoting his new book, they said, and making appearances elsewhere. But some wise aide must have reminded the senator that, as the saying goes, the road to the White House runs through Iowa, and the state fair, in particular. Because there he was yesterday, reports our Liz Halloran, sweating like everyone else in mid-90-degree temps, promising to compete in the caucuses, and reiterating his support for the Iraq war. Not that he seemed all that thrilled to be there.

Scheduled to appear at TV Channel 13's booth at 1:45, he showed up late, spoke in front of the camera for three minutes (Iraq war, Washington pork barrel spending), snapped at a young man in a Mitt Romney T-shirt who asked him why he didn't compete in last Saturday's GOP straw poll (where he finished 10th in a field of 11), and spent about 13 minutes at the Des Moines Register's candidate soapbox. He repeated his mantra on Iraq: "I would much rather lose a campaign than a war."

To the crowd he said, "I know it's very controversial...I read the polls like everyone else." When he asked for questions, a Vietnam War veteran stood up and told the senator that on behalf of himself and fellow vets, we "hope and pray you will be elected." The senator smiled. "If you're not busy," he said, "I'd like to take you with me."