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In Portland, Maine, later Monday, Mr. McCain said his steadfast support of the surge - even at the expense of his political ambitions - proves he can be commander in chief.

“That’s what judgment’s all about. That’s why I’m qualified to lead. I don’t need any on-the-job training,” he said to thunderous applause from hundreds of supporters gathered outside the Maine Military Museum.

Mr. McCain insisted that his opponent, who opposed the Iraq war when it began in March 2003, “has been completely wrong,” and disparaged Mr. Obama as “someone who has no military experience whatsoever.”

While Mr. Obama opposed the surge in Iraq, he advocates a nearly identical increase of U.S. troops into Afghanistan to quell the same kind of ethnic violence that hampered Iraq’s political development two years ago. The Democrat argues that the resurgence of the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan makes that country the central front in America’s war on terror.

Mr. Obama’s visit to Iraq came just days after Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told a German magazine he supported the Democratic candidate’s timetable for a full U.S. withdrawal by summer 2010.

Iraq’s government spokesman Ali al Dabbagh reiterated the stance Monday, saying: “We are hoping that in 2010 that combat troops will withdraw from Iraq.”

Mr. McCain, like President Bush, has opposed setting a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, although Mr. Bush also appears ready to begin establishing a framework, talking last week about a “general time horizon” for an exit by U.S. combat troops.

Earlier the elder Mr. Bush, 84, and like Mr. McCain a war hero, offered strong backing for the 71-year-old former Navy pilot. “We are strongly supporting him,” he said. “My respect for him knows no bounds.”

Mr. Bush said he was not advising Mr. McCain on the war. “I don’t follow the news day to day,” he said with a laugh, adding that “I defer” to Mr. McCain on Iraq.

Stephen Dinan reported from Washington.