McCain tells Md. Republicans: 'I know how to win wars'

McCain called it "remarkable" that Obama had not consulted with Gen. David Petraeus before this week. Obama's call for additional troops in Afghanistan did not reflect a fully developed military vision, McCain said.

"My friends, I know how to win wars," McCain told a crowd of about 200 that partially filled a large room at Baltimore's Center Club in the Legg Mason building. In Iraq and Afghanistan, "the benefits of success are enormous, and the consequences of failure are obviously enormous."

The Arizona senator flew into Maryland from New Hampshire for a brief fundraising event hosted by former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. Ehrlich said that ticket sales - orchestrated in part by his former finance chief, Richard E. Hug - totaled $1 million. Prices were $2,300 for a VIP reception and $1,000 for regular admission.
Ehrlich, who first supported former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani for the Republican nomination, told McCain last night: "We need you to lead this country today."

McCain told donors that he would be outspent this year because he is accepting public financing while Obama is not. "I kept my word" to stay in the public system, McCain said. "He didn't."

He called on the country to embark on a "national mission" to become energy-independent through nuclear power, wind and developments such as electric and hybrid vehicles.

Last night's event attracted some of Maryland's most prominent Republicans - a group that has been on its heels since Ehrlich's re-election defeat in 2006 and the continued dominance by Democrats, who hold a 2-to-1 voter registration advantage in the state.

Former Rep. Helen Delich Bentley said that McCain's support of offshore oil drilling was "important and necessary."

Commenting on Republicans' diminished prospects this year, Bentley said: "Bush has screwed up some. But [McCain] is not Bush." She added that she was "surprised" at the relatively healthy turnout.

Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold said the McCain campaign has found its footing by speaking directly to voters through town hall-style meetings. "That's his strength," Leopold said. "It's hard on the national level, but he can do it."

At the fundraiser, McCain acknowledged former Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele and said the two had been traveling together. Steele regularly appears on cable television "trying to defend me," McCain said, adding: "Your reward will be in heaven, not here on earth."

McCain was greeted at the airport by several Maryland supporters approved by the campaign, including Don Murphy, a lobbyist and former state lawmaker from Catonsville. Murphy has been named chairman of the Maryland delegation at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn.

Murphy carried a sign spelling out McCain's name in the code used by McCain and other prisoners of war to communicate by tapping on their cell walls.

McCain autographed the sign and "tapped out his name in code" before getting in a car to drive to the event, Murphy said.

Union demonstrators gathered yesterday outside the Light Street office tower where the McCain fundraiser was held.

"Get out of Maryland. We don't want you here," said Mortimes Sellers of Baltimore, representing the Laborers' International Union of North America.

State Democratic leaders and union officials have used the fundraising stop as an opportunity to criticize McCain's record on children's health care and other issues.

"His record just isn't there," said Joe Flynn, national vice president of the American Federation of Government Employees.

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