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McCain Rehashes Romney's Old Catchphrase

The wounds were still fresh from his damaging defeat in the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 5 when Mitt Romney was looking for a way to regain momentum heading into the New Hampshire primary. On that cold morning at a town hall meeting in Derry, New Hampshire, Romney stood beside an illuminated sign that unveiled his retooled message: "Washington Is Broken."

"We face extraordinarily challenges that we have heard the politicians talk about for decades without getting anything done," Romney said on that day. "And it is finally time to have somebody go to Washington who is not a lifelong politician worrying about his career, worrying whether his party is going to get an edge, worrying whether he is going to settle a score with the other politicians, but rather worrying about one thing: solving the challenges of the problems that face America."

The implication was clear: Romney was arguing that McCain, his chief rival in New Hamphsire, was just the kind of "lifelong politician" who wouldn't be able to deliver real change. In fact, in the run-up to the critical Florida primary a couple weeks later, Romney dug at McCain's D.C. ties even deeper, saying that his GOP rival was engaging in "Washington talk" and that it would take someone with Romney's private sector experience to heal Washington's ills.

But now John McCain is employing the line Romney once used to contrast himself against the Arizona senator. "Washington's broken," an announcer says at the beginning of the new McCain TV ad, which highlights McCain's record on combating special interests.

Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom tells CBS News that the McCain campaign did not consult with the Romney folks about using the former Massachusetts governor's old phrase, perhaps putting to rest the idea that the resurrection of the message has come out of a new closeness between the current and former campaigns.

"We don't make any special claim to that phrase," Fehrnstrom said. "Besides, our patent ran out the day Mitt Romney ended his campaign. If anyone can fix what's wrong in Washington, it's John McCain. He's made a career out of taking on the special interests."