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McCain: "I Don't Mean That I'll Lose"

(CBS)
From CBS News' Dante Higgins:

CINCINNATI -- Tonight, John McCain clarified comments he made earlier whenhe said he would "lose" the election if he couldn't convince Americans that U.S. policy was succeeding in Iraq. He later retracted the finality of that statement and acknowledged that the war in Iraq will be an important issue in the election.

"I quickly retracted that. I was not allowed to retract it obviously," he joked.

"I don't mean that I'll lose. I mean that it's an important issue in the judgment of the American voters and I hope that clarifies ... It's not often that I retract a comment. I retracted the finality of that statement, I think that the issue of the war in Iraq is important to the American people and it will be a major factor in their determining who they are going to support in the election in November. If I get the nomination," he said.

Earlier today, McCain told reporters that in order to win the presidency he needs to convince the country that U.S. policy in Iraq is succeeding. If he can't do that he said, "then, I lose. I lose." Immediately, McCain began to backpedal. "Let me not put it that stark," he said.

"Let me just put it this way: Americans will judge my candidacy first and foremost on how they believe I can lead the country both from our economy and for national security. Obviously, Iraq will play a role in their judgment of my ability to handle national security."

It's no secret that McCain has wedded his presidential campaign to success in Iraq. As part of his "straight talk" persona he usually speaks off the cuff to reporters or anyone who will listen about it. But today he moved to amend his original statement just sentences after it came out.

"If I may, I'd like to retract 'I'll lose.' But I don't think there's any doubt that how they judge Iraq will have a direct relation to their judgment of me, my support of the surge," McCain added. "Clearly, I am tied to it to a large degree."

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