- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 17, 2007

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain took his struggling campaign here, telling Silicon Valley entrepreneurs he is much like a startup that just needs retooling.

The Arizona Republican talked about bipartisanship and fiscal discipline, being patient for success in Iraq and the need to “get together as a planet” to tackle climate change.

He brushed off questions about the last quarter’s dismal campaign-finance report, which prompted several top campaign aides to quit.

“It should be tough; this is the most important position in the world,” Mr. McCain told members of the Churchill Club, a technology and business forum.

Moderator Tony Perkins, a Churchill co-founder who now runs the AlwaysOn networking site, opened with a question about the staff changes and money problems.

“In Silicon Valley, we’re used to startups going through changes,” Mr. Perkins said. “Pretend for a moment that we’re your venture capitalists that have given you some money already and … we’re asking, ‘What happened to plan A and what’s plan B?’ ”

Mr. McCain said his campaign spent too much and was “too bureaucratic.” He got more bad news yesterday, as some of his top press aides and Iowa staffers resigned, but he said here he can win if he comes back in September and speaks to people directly.

“I’m not a good fundraiser,” he conceded, then took a second to boast. “I’m a great — I think I’m an adequate campaigner, excuse my ego,” he said to laughs. “I can out-campaign anybody.”

He found a sympathetic audience with Silicon Valley denizens, used to boom-and-bust cycles and famous for CEOs who pick themselves up out of the rubble.

Mr. McCain received warm applause after saying he is the most prepared of all the candidates in either party to handle Islamic extremism, what he views as the “transcendent challenge of this 21st century.”

Several said they admired Mr. McCain for standing firm and insisting that “if given enough time” the surge of troops in Iraq can succeed.

He said he is “fully aware” public opinion is in favor of withdrawing troops, but stressed: “I don’t adopt my positions because of polls. I adopt my positions because of principles.”

He pointed out several times he was an early critic of Iraq war strategy and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

But Tom McLaughlin, 46, initially thought Mr. McCain’s heart was not in the talk, saying: “He seems like he’s been through battle and his time has passed.”

But 45 minutes later Mr. McLaughlin, a 2004 Bush voter who works at a software company, had changed his mind.

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