McCain told reporters his campaign was doing better nationally, but "we've got a lot of work to do."
"No, I'm not going to give up Iowa. No, I'm not going to take matching funds, and no, I'm happy with our campaign," he said in response to a question about how he would jump start his campaign.
But campaign spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker later played down the statement.
"It is not a departure from what we've been saying," she said. "We are not taking matching funds now. We have not made a decision to take the matching funds. There is no final decision."
McCain's remarks and the campaign's explanation comes as the presidential field enters an expensive 90-day sprint to the presidential caucuses in Iowa and the first-in-the-nation primary in New Hampshire, both tentatively scheduled for early January.
The McCain camp said last week that he raised $6 million from July through September and that he had $3.6 million cash on hand. When he files his official fundraising reports with the Federal Election Commission by Monday, he is expected to show a debt of about $1.5 million.
McCain had little cash and a staff upheaval on his hands at the end of June. At the time, his campaign said he was considering seeking public financing, a move that would pump at least $6 million into his presidential effort. Accepting such funds, however, would force him to live with spending limits in the primary states and an overall cap on primary spending of about $50 million.
On Wednesday, McCain, who had been focusing his efforts on New Hampshire, tried to reassure Iowans that he had not given up on the state.
"I have to do a lot better job than I'm doing today. That's just a fact," McCain said Wednesday as he began a three-day trip through the state. "I intend to work, I've been here a lot. I'll be back."
He called for stepping up oversight of private security firms in Iraq and blamed the Bush administration for not initially sending enough troops.
Private security operations, such as Blackwater USA, were needed because U.S. troops were stretched too thin, said McCain, who has long called for increasing troop levels.
"I would think it's important to point out that the reason why they're there is because we never had enough troops, we never had enough boots on the ground so they are carrying out responsibilities that normally American military would be carrying out," McCain said during taping of "Iowa Press" on public television. "I wish we had the size of Army, Marine Corps and Guard that we could send more troops."