By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 24, 2007 10:02 PM
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) will formally offer himself Wednesday as the only presidential candidate with the experience to confront dangerous challenges to the country at home and abroad, according to excerpts of the speech released by his campaign Tuesday night.
"We face formidable challenges, but I'm not afraid of them," McCain is expected to say in his announcement at Portsmouth, N.H. "I'm not the youngest candidate. But I am the most experienced. . . . I know how to fight and how to make peace. I know who I am and what I want to do."
McCain has been focused on this run for the presidency since his first, ragtag White House bid ran out of steam in 2000, and he has been actively campaigning since he announced his intentions on the "Late Show with David Letterman" in late February.
But McCain's campaign has been sputtering since then. He raised almost $13 million in the first quarter of the year, but that sum, which would have seemed princely four years ago, paled in comparison to the top presidential contenders from both parties this time around.
Meanwhile, his attempts to create a sense of inevitability around his campaign have been derailed by former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who leads in most national polls.
In the Portsmouth speech, McCain strikes a humble note, saying that he does not seek the office out of "entitlement" but rather because of a love of country that grew out of his captivity in Vietnam as a prisoner of war.
"Thirty-four years ago, I came home from an extended absence abroad. While I was away, I fell in love with my country," the speech says. "I have been an imperfect servant of my country ever since, in uniform and in office, in war and peace."
McCain is expected to mention themes he has raised before, including energy independence, wasteful government spending and the "global struggle with violent extremists."
But the speech also strikes a more bipartisan tone than he and his Republican adversaries have during the last three months.
"So soon after our last contentious election, our differences are again sure to be sharpened and exaggerated. That's the nature of free elections," McCain is expected to say. "But even in the heat of a campaign, we shouldn't lose sight that much more defines us than our partisanship."
McCain plans to argue that his experience and his strength of character make him the best choice to lead America.
"I know how the world works. I know the good and the evil in it," the speech says. "I know how to work with leaders who share our dreams of a freer, safer and more prosperous world, and how to stand up to those who don't."