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McCain, Graham Warn GOP Faces Tough Task

November 22, 2005

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (AP) _ With the war in Iraq, higher energy costs and breakneck government spending, the GOP faces a tough round of congressional elections in 2006 unless things change, two key Republican senators warned during a campaign appearance.

``I think if this were not an odd-numbered year, we would have great difficulties,″ said U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

McCain and fellow-Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina were interviewed by The Associated Press when they stopped here Sunday night to campaign for Republican state Attorney General Henry McMaster.

``But we can recover,″ McCain said. ``Reagan recovered. Clinton recovered. We can recover.″

The party must show ``progress in Iraq, we need a comprehensive energy package and we need to stop this profligate spending,″ he warned.

``If the election were tomorrow, we’d be in trouble,″ agreed Graham, who said the party must work to cut spending.

``If we really want to do well in 2006, we need to have fiscal discipline like Republicans campaigned on,″ he said. ``We have lost our way as a party. Our base is deflated and taxpayers don’t see any difference between us and the Democrats.″

Graham said the party has to again reach the voters.

``You don’t have to stop being conservative, you got to start connecting,″ he said, adding ``we need to adjust and if we don’t adjust, we’re going to be in trouble.″

The party, he said, must be honest enough to admit that things aren’t going as well as hoped in Iraq.

``Democrats who have this cut-and-run strategy _ the public doesn’t want to follow that. They want to follow Republicans who understand the war is not going as well as it should but who understand that our security is better off with a successful outcome in Iraq,″ he said.

The message in Iraq, McCain said, ``is we are making progress, we have to make progress and we regret the loss of every single young American. But the benefits of success are enormous.″

McCain has been mentioned as a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2008. He said he will not make a decision on a race until after next year’s elections.

McCain, looking at Graham, told the crowd of about 100 people that ``some people have said this might be a very attractive vice presidential candidate.″

The crowd clapped and whistled. Graham simply smiled.

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