McCain plays down 10th place finish
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Republican presidential candidate John McCain on Monday shrugged off his 10th-place finish in the Iowa straw poll this past weekend, calling such contests meaningless.The Arizona senator, starting a two-day swing through early voting South Carolina, skipped the Iowa straw poll along with Rudy Giuliani and all-but-declared candidate Fred Thompson.Mitt Romney easily won the Republican-run contest, with Mike Huckabee a distant second and Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback third.McCain, who garnered 101 votes, said he was surprised to get that many.”I thought it would be zero,” McCain said after talking to about 350 members of the Columbia Rotary Club. “I think straw polls are meaningless and that’s all. I understand that it’s a great way for the party to get money. I haven’t engaged in any straw polls either here in South Carolina or Iowa or New Hampshire or anywhere else.”McCain, who was in New Hampshire over the weekend, said missing the straw poll does not affect his strategy to win primaries in all three early GOP primary states, including Iowa.The rotary club’s president, Jack Van Loan, spent time in a Vietnamese POW camp with McCain. Van Loan told the crowd he saw North Vietnamese officers go to McCain’s cell and heard him yell that he wasn’t going home even though he was badly injured.”He’s telling them, ‘Hell, no, I won’t go home early.’ And I prayed that night to God that if the situation was reversed that I would have the same degree of courage,” Van Loan said. “Our speaker today has courage in spades.”McCain talked about curbing spending for special highway projects and said he favors giving governors discretion over spending federal gas taxes on projects.”Eliminate the waste and pork-barrel spending and let’s give it back to priorities that the states have. I would trust the governor in the state of South Carolina to decide where the gas tax money goes a lot more than some congressman from Alaska,” McCain said.