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McCain brings his presidential campaign to Lancaster County

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By Jesef Williams

INDIAN LAND – U.S. Sen. John McCain says he’s the best candidate for president and will make the tough decisions to ensure a brighter future for all citizens. McCain, who’s seeking the Republican nomination for president, spoke to residents of Indian Land’s Sun City Carolina Lakes on Wednesday afternoon at the retirement community’s lake house. His speech focused on three areas – health care, spending and the war in Iraq. McCain says health care should be more affordable and available for everyone. He also says the country needs better health care for military veterans. “We have very crowded and inadequate facilities to care for veterans,” he said. “There are some people who aren’t going to get health insurance. We can’t leave those people behind.” McCain says government spending is out of control and is one reason why citizens have lost confidence in the government.He said Congress’ decision two years ago to fund a $230 million bridge in Alaska that led to an island with about 50 people is a prime example of wasteful spending. He promised the crowd that, if elected president, he will veto such legislation and move that the money be used to benefit more people. McCain says the war in Iraq has been mishandled and that former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s strategy was doomed to fail. However, the United States is succeeding in Iraq and can’t leave the area until the job is done, McCain says. “It is frustrating and it has saddened all of us,” he said. “But there are still enormous challenges.” He says everyone should pay attention to Social Security, which some have projected will go broke by 2019. The country must invest in the system now so that future generations can have something to look forward to, he says. On education, McCain says he supports the No Child Left Behind Act but believes the national accountability measure should be overhauled. He’s not in favor of abandoning it for a completely new system. As far as local industry is concerned, McCain says there needs to be more funding for training programs that will help people who’ve lost their textile-related jobs due to outsourcing. “The job-training programs were designed in the 1950s,” he said. “That doesn’t work. We got to be modernized and updated.”McCain, whose been a member of Congress for 24 years, ran for president in 2000 and 2004.McCain, 71, would be the oldest president at the time of inauguration if he wins the election. He says his experience and understanding of key issues makes him the best candidate. “I know the issues,” McCain said. “I’ll hit the ground running. I need no on-the-job training.”McCain was once the national front-runner for the nomination but has stumbled amid disappointing fundraising and spending that has left his campaign $1.7 million in debt.According to the latest nation polls, McCain is third among Republican candidates, trailing Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson. Despite the numbers, McCain says he’s confident he can win the nomination. “I think we’re showing steady improvement,” said McCain, whose 95-year-old mother, Roberta McCain, was campaigning with him Wednesday. She introduced him to the crowd at Sun City. Talking to people he knows will voteWednesday’s event was sponsored by the Sun City Carolina Lakes’ Residents Republican Club. Bruce Miller, chairman of the club, says McCain’s campaign had contacted him about making an appearance earlier this month. The event, which was open only to Sun City residents, was arranged last week, Miller said. “We are not here as a partisan group, but as Sun City residents,” Miller said. “This could be our next president and you have the right to hear him.“We are an action group of people of all walks of life,” Miller said. “We are extremely active, interested and involved. He’s talking to people he knows will go to the polls.” Sun City resident Terri May was eager to hear McCain speak about the war in Iraq. May says she hopes the next president will be able to get the conflict resolved soon.“I thought he was informative,” May said. “He gave you hope that things can work out eventually.” More candidates to visit county?Miller says the campaigns for Republican presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee have each contacted the Residents Republican Club about coming to speak here. Appearances by Romney and Huckabee are probable, Miller says, and there’s a chance other Republican candidates will make a stop in Lancaster County, as well. Gil Small, chairman of the Lancaster County Democratic Party, says contact has been made with the campaigns for U.S. Sens. Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama and former U.S. Sen. John Edwards about appearances here. A visit from Edwards is “probable,” while there’s a possibility Clinton and Obama will stop in the county, Small said. South Carolina’s Republican presidential primary is Jan. 19. The state’s Democratic presidential primary is set for Jan. 29, though state Democrats asked this week to have it moved up three days to Jan. 26.The South Carolina contests are among the earliest primaries in the country, which makes the state a frequent stop for candidates.

Contact Jesef Williamsat 283-1152 orjwilliams@thelancasternews.com