McCain Benefits From Romney Loss In Iowa

Republican presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., speaks during a campaign stop at Hollis Pharmacy in Hollis, N.H., Friday, Jan. 4, 2008. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) AP

This story was written by Chris Frates.

It didn't seem to matter to John McCain that when the final votes are tallied in Iowa, he could emerge as the surprise third-place finisher in the Republican presidential caucus.

He didn't even mention it during his last meeting with reporters Thursday night.

But that's not to say the Arizona senator didn't take something away from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's resounding victory over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who is McCain's chief rival in New Hampshire.

"The lesson of this election in Iowa is that, one, you can't buy an election in Iowa and two, negative campaigns don't work," McCain said. "They don't work there, and they don't work here in New Hampshire."

In Iowa, Romney aired negative ads against Huckabee and targeted McCain with similarly unflattering commercials in New Hampshire, where the two are locked in a fierce primary battle.

McCain has staked his candidacy on his ability to win New Hampshire. So, Romney's loss Thursday night was McCain's gain.

"This is a great thing for us to be able to take Romney down a notch and not have to do anything," said a top McCain aide in New Hampshire.

McCain didn't run any commercials in Iowa and spent little time campaigning there, instead campaigning heavily in New Hampshire, which has the nation's first presidential primary Tuesday.

During his meeting with reporters in New Hampshire, McCain praised Huckabee for running "a very good, strong and positive campaign" that he should be proud of.

In recent weeks, McCain and Huckabee have avoided attacking each other, choosing instead to focus on Romney, who was long considered the front-runner in the early states until Huckabee's rise.

McCain will continue to work aggressively in New Hampshire where he returned late Thursday afternoon to campaign.

Unlike most other candidates who stayed in Iowa, McCain's Thursday arrival here signals the enormous importance the campaign puts on a win.

"We can feel the momentum - the same kind of momentum that we felt in 2000," McCain said.

"I'm very confident with a strong, positive finish here that we're going to win here in New Hampshire and go on to Michigan and South Carolina."

Romney's defeat will give people a reason to give McCain another look, said McCain's national political director, Michael Dennehy.

"The most important thing it does, given that [Romney] had such a sizeable lead for such a long time, it just gives people in New Hampshire pause," Dennehy said.

But the Iowa results haven't changed McCain's New Hampshire strategy, campaign officials said.

They plan on reaching 100,000 voters over the next five days and continuing to hammer the theme of a straight talking, ready-to-lead candidate.

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