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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

'SERVICE WITH HONOR'

McCain Persuaded to Play Up His POW Film

CONCORD, N.H. -- Most presidential campaigns warm up the crowd for their candidate with pop music, remarks by a local supporter, or instructions by a staffer on how to go about volunteering or getting to the polls on Election Day.

John McCain has the film. At many of his events, his campaign sets up a screen and plays for the crowd a three-minute film called "Service With Honor," telling the story of McCain's more than five years of captivity in a North Vietnamese prison after his Navy plane was shot down in 1967.

"He was offered early release, and he told 'em to shove it," says one fellow prisoner of war, Paul Galanti. "He has been there, he's done that, he's been miserable, he's been tortured, beaten to a pulp, and yet he still comes up with that patented McCain smile."

McCain did not play a film like this for crowds when he ran for president in late 1999 and 2000, when he mostly left others to draw attention to his unique biography.

McCain's advisers in New Hampshire, where his campaign has focused its primary efforts, say it took some persuading to get McCain to agree to rely more heavily on his biography.

"We just said, 'Look, you're the only candidate running who's ever been under hostile fire, who understands how the defense budget is put together and how war is strategized,' " said Steve Duprey, a former New Hampshire Republican Party chairman who is co-chairman of McCain's campaign here.

"Like most military people, he was reluctant to wear that service on his sleeve, but he understood the importance of talking about his experiences this year because national security and defense issues are at the fore."

-- Alec MacGillis

BATTLE FOR FOURTH IN IOWA


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