The senator put out the following statement today:
"A year ago today the president announced that five additional brigades would be deployed to Iraq, which Osama bin Laden's top lieutenant called a central battlefront in al Qaeda's war against us. I had long argued that a change in course in Iraq was critical to achieve success there. Today, thanks to the tremendous leadership of General Petraeus and the bravery of our troops, the surge is working.
"When the troop surge and new counterinsurgency campaign was first implemented, many politicians either outright opposed it or equivocated and hedged, but I was convinced that the new counterinsurgency plan was sound and the courage of our ground commander and his troops would prevail over the Islamist extremist enemy. Today, operations by American forces, in partnership with our Iraqi allies, have put the terrorists on the defensive, yielded significant intelligence on our enemies, and turned Iraq around from the direction it was headed. We will succeed in Iraq if we don't lose our resolve. We must not succumb to the calls of some for retreat. We will not surrender, our enemies will."
That last line is the central theme of the McCain campaign, and it seems to me far more compelling than any message about competence or change (though it implicitly embraces both--McCain was competent enough to support a necessary change in our strategy in Iraq). And if McCain makes it out of the primary, an outcome that looks increasingly likely, it's a message that will stand in stark contrast to the defeatism that permeates the Democratic party. But I suspect that in a general election, the Democratic candidate is just as likely to embrace the surge as not. Far easier push for retreat under the guise of declaring victory than to level with the American people and call it what it is.