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This is McCain’s life: the U.S. tour

Times Staff Writer

Eager to stay in the news in the long march to the Republican convention, presumed nominee John McCain sets out on a biographical tour next week intended to reintroduce himself to voters.

McCain explained Friday that the tour would include “the places where I had the opportunity to serve the country.”

“Each one of the places we’re going to was part of the formative experiences that shaped my views and my thinking,” he told reporters Friday after a fundraiser at the Venetian casino-hotel.

McCain will attend an air show Monday near Meridian, Miss., at McCain Field, which was named for his grandfather, an admiral. His speech there will outline his family’s military service. McCain was stationed in the area as a flight instructor.

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The Arizona senator will hold a town hall meeting Tuesday at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Va., where his first-year antics and disregard for the rules earned him the title of “worst rat.”

On Wednesday, he will make stops near the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., where he graduated fifth from the bottom of his class, and in Pensacola, Fla., where he attended flight school and drove a red Corvette -- spending most of his free hours “at bars and beach parties,” according to one of his memoirs.

During a stop Thursday in Jacksonville, Fla., where McCain’s first wife and young children lived while he was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, he is expected to emphasize the importance of service and what he views as the need to increase the Army and Marine Corps.

He plans to stop Friday in Memphis for a speech marking the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., who was killed when McCain was imprisoned. McCain will end the tour next Saturday in Arizona, where he began his political career.

McCain’s campaign aired its first general election ad Friday, in New Mexico, a state it expects to be a toss-up. The spot illustrates McCain’s military service with a montage of images including footage from his years as a prisoner of war and his first walk on U.S. soil after being released from North Vietnam.

The announcer suggests McCain has “walked the walk” and hails him as “the American president Americans have been waiting for.”

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean mocked the ad Friday, charging that voters “have been waiting for a president who understands the challenges they face, not another out-of-touch Bush Republican.”

“While we honor McCain’s military service, the fact is Americans want a real leader who offers real solutions, not a blatant opportunist who doesn’t understand the economy and is promising to keep our troops in Iraq for 100 years,” Dean said in a statement.

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maeve.reston@latimes.com


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