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    McCain Formally Launches GOP Presidential Bid

    By David S. Broder
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Monday, September 27, 1999; 12:04 p.m. EDT

    NASHUA, N.H., Sept. 27 Sen. John McCain, the Arizona maverick and former Vietnam prisoner of war, formally launched his uphill bid for the Republican presidential nomination here today with a "patriotic challenge" to reform the political system and strengthen the nation's defenses.

    McCain, who has emerged as a credible underdog challenger to Texas Gov. George W. Bush, implicitly drew a contrast between their experiences, saying his own ordeal in a Hanoi prison taught him "both the blessing and the price of freedom."

    Bush served in the Texas Air National Guard during Vietnam and has been forced to deny that favoritism to his father, the former president, eased his way from Yale into that stateside unit.

    McCain has been campaigning for months, but postponed his scheduled announcement tour when hostilities broke out in Kosovo. Polls in New Hampshire and South Carolina, where McCain will campaign tomorrow, show him far behind Bush but leading most or all of the others in the eight-person Republican field. (Former vice president Dan Quayle will end his presidential bid this afternoon).

    McCain pledged today to press for overhaul of the campaign finance system a battle in which he has been fighting his party's leaders for years and to veto any "pork-barrel" spending bill that reaches him as president. But he also offered voters broad tax cuts and vowed to save "every single dollar" of the Social Security surplus.

    McCain has ignored Iowa, whose caucuses come just eight days before the Feb. 8 New Hampshire primary, in a calculated gamble that he can upset Bush's bandwagon in New Hampshire, where independents play a significant role in the GOP primary, and in South Carolina, which has an unusually large community of military veterans.

    © 1999 The Washington Post Company

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