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McCain Gets Endorsement from President Bush

Republican Senator John McCain, 71, has received a formal endorsement from President Bush at the White House, after winning all four primary contests to clinch his party's nomination. VOA Correspondent Cindy Saine reports from Washington.

Arizona Senator John McCain has secured the Republican presidential nomination at last, eight years after his first failed attempt.

The man who was his bitter rival and eventually defeated him in that 2000 Republican race, President George W. Bush, invited him to the White House Wednesday for a warm endorsement.

"John showed incredible courage and strength of character and perseverance in order to get to this moment and that is exactly what we need in a president," he said. "Somebody who can handle the tough decisions, somebody who won't flinch in the face of danger."

The Arizona senator has disagreed with President Bush on several issues, criticizing the planning for the Iraq war and the administration's policy on torture, but he thanked the president for his support.

"I appreciate his endorsement, I appreciate his service to our country," he said. "I intend to have as much possible campaigning events together as is in keeping with the president's heavy schedule."

With his low approval ratings, close association with President Bush could hurt Senator McCain among some voters. But the president is still popular among many conservative Republicans, whose support McCain needs to win the general election.

Last summer, many experts prematurely declared Senator McCain's campaign "dead". His Iraq war stance and his backing for comprehensive immigration reform made him deeply unpopular, and he had to take out a bank loan just to keep his campaign running.

But McCain is a survivor. As a veteran pilot during the Vietnam War, he narrowly escaped death in a missile accident. Three months later, he was shot down during a bombing mission and was a prisoner of war in Vietnam for five-and-a-half years.

John McCain would be the oldest American ever elected to a first term as president if he is able to win over the Democratic nominee in November's general election.

McCain said both his Democratic rivals, Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama phoned him late Tuesday to congratulate him on winning the nomination, and he promised to wage a fair campaign.

"I pledge again a respectful campaign," he said. "A respectful campaign based on the issues and based on the stark differences and visions we have for the future of America."

Senator McCain says he will focus on his national security and foreign policy experience. He strongly supports keeping U.S. combat troops in Iraq as long as necessary to win the war, saying he would rather "lose an election than lose a war."