03/28/2008 02:45 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Juan Cole: McCain Owns The Iraq Surge -- For Better Or Worse

John McCain campaigned in Michigan this weekend on national security issues and Iraq, insisting that the United States is closing in on victory in Iraq and needs time to complete the mission. He spoke about Iraq in the small town of Clawson, telling voters in Tuesday's Republican primary, "We are winning this. Let's pursue it to the end together and stop this bitter partisanship."

Republican voters seem to trust the former prisoner of war on matters military. Ironically, the foremost proponent of the surge in the 2008 field, the man who proclaimed a willingness to stay in Iraq for a century if necessary, has even emerged as the favorite of those Republicans who express anxiety about the Iraq war and question the Bush administration's conduct of same. McCain won heavily among that constituency in New Hampshire last Tuesday, and a Detroit Free Press poll found that McCain led former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney by more than 15 percentage points among the nearly one-quarter of Michigan Republicans for whom Iraq is the No. 1 issue. Looking past Tuesday's primary, however, McCain's strategy of declaring an ongoing victory is extremely risky. January has already seen a sharp uptick in violence, leaving dozens of Iraqi civilians and 20 U.S. soldiers dead since the beginning of the year, with the potential to bring into question the Arizona senator's credibility if the violence continues at that rate.

Read Juan Cole's full piece.

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