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Friday, February 23, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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McCain woos Seattle voters

Seattle Times staff reporter

Presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain, during a Seattle appearance today, said Congress should give President Bush's planned "surge" of more U.S. troops in Iraq a chance to work.

McCain called the recent Congressional debate on a nonbinding resolution opposing the surge "a charade" and said if members of Congress oppose the war, they should use their budget authority to cut off funding instead. He joked that he skipped that vote to "spend more time in the sunny climes of Iowa."

The Arizona Republican was at Seattle's Westin Hotel to deliver a speech urging greater U.S. trade with China and other Asian nations, but questions from the audience quickly turned to the war in Iraq.

McCain, a decorated Vietnam veteran who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war, said he hopes Americans will be patient and give the new Iraq strategy, led by Gen. David Petraeus, an opportunity to succeed. He said it should be clear within "some months" whether the plan is working.

"I believe that if we fail and leave you will see chaos and genocide. I also believe that unlike the Vietnam War when we lost and they didn't want to follow us home, these people want to follow us home," McCain said.

During his prepared speech, McCain cited the importance of Asian trade to Washington State and the country and said America should "reject the failed policies of isolationism."

Instead, McCain said the U.S. should encourage more trade with China and other Asian countries, while also demanding those nations become more democratic and free. "With every export of wheat or software must travel the values that have always been the chief source of our greatness."

McCain, 70, is officially in an exploratory phase of a possible presidential bid. But he has begun laying the groundwork for a well-organized campaign in Washington. He received an early endorsement today from State Attorney General Rob McKenna.

And following his speech McCain was scheduled to meet at Boeing Field with Christian conservative leaders and anti-abortion activists -- a voting bloc considered key to his chances to win the 2008 Republican nomination.

"He is making the right moves," said Joe Fuiten, pastor of Bothell's Cedar Park church and one of the state's top evangelical leaders. Fuiten said he likes what he's heard from McCain so far, but called the meeting "a coffee date, not a marriage."

Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or jbrunner@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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