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McCain's Sharp Tongue: an Achilles Heel?

"John's a person that I have a lot of disagreements with, but you've got to have a lot of respect for him," Grassley told reporters recently. "For what he's done to defend freedom, as a Navy pilot and as a POW, you've got to have a lot of respect for him for sticking to his guns, being way out ahead of the president that the policy needed to change in Iraq."

"I'm not speaking as if I'm a born-again supporter of John McCain, I'm just trying to express it the way that I see him, and maybe some aspects of him being a good president," Grassley said.

McCain's defenders are weary of talk about his temperament. They point out that for all the decorum of the Senate, many members are known for raging at colleagues or even throwing shoes and other objects at aides.

For that matter, Dobson, the Focus on the Family founder so concerned about McCain's "legendary temper," apparently has a temper of his own. "He once berated one of our staffers to tears because he simply had to wait a few minutes to see the member," said a Capitol Hill aide who requested anonymity out of deference to his boss. Another aide said he witnessed the scene.

Since he rolled up big victories on Super Tuesday and forced his main rival, Mitt Romney, from the race, McCain has worked quickly to win over his enemies.

He delivered a well-received speech at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, and he met last week with some of his biggest congressional foes, the uniformly conservative House Republican leadership.

Progress won't happen overnight, said conservative Republican strategist Greg Mueller.

"I hope they'll be resolved by the time we all go to convention, but it's going to take a while to mend some of the wounds and get everybody back together," Mueller said.

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© 2008 The Associated Press