Republican presidential hopeful John McCain on Tuesday officially signed up to compete in his second New Hampshire primary, scrawling “He’s BAAAACK!” on a commemorative poster at the secretary of state’s office.
The message reflected not only that the Arizona senator’s name has been on the ballot before but his optimism that he’s regaining some of the ground he’s lost since starting this election cycle as the front-runner.
McCain, 71, who won the 2000 Republican primary by a wide margin over then-Gov. George W. Bush, has faced a bumpier road this time around. But he insisted that he is the same straight-talker New Hampshire voters embraced eight years ago and that his experience sets him apart from his rivals.
“There are some, frankly, that would like to portray me as having to be a different candidate, changing positions and all that,” he told reporters after handing in his filing paperwork. “Look at the record. It’s been consistent. I’ve stood up for what I believe in. I have stood for what is right, even from time to time, when it’s not in agreement with my party leadership.”
As he often does, the Arizona senator noted that he spoke up against the Bush administration’s initial strategy in Iraq.
“None of these other people did that,” he said of his rivals. “They sat and watched.”
The latest poll of likely voters in the New Hampshire GOP primary showed McCain about even with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
“I think it’s great to have been mayor of a big city. I think it’s great to have been governor of a state,” McCain said. “I think it’s important that I’ve been part of every national security issue since 1980 … That’s really what’s at stake.”