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McCain, Democrats Clash Over Iraq in US Presidential Campaign


Presumed U.S. Republican presidential nominee John McCain says it is, in his words, "not too important" when U.S. troops withdraw from Iraq -- a statement that Democrats immediately criticized.

In a television interview on NBC's Today Show on Wednesday, Senator McCain said the important thing is reducing U.S. casualties in Iraq. He has pledged to maintain the U.S. troop presence in Iraq, while presumed Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama has called for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.

Speaking on behalf of Senator Obama's campaign, fellow Democrat John Kerry said McCain's statement showed how the Republican candidate is, in Kerry's words, "unbelievably out of touch." Kerry said that to the American people, particularly families of the troops, it is the most important thing to have the troops return home.

In other campaign news, Senator Obama says a key member of his vice presidential search team has decided to step aside following criticism of personal loan deals.

Obama said in a statement Wednesday that Jim Johnson wants to avoid distracting from the process of gathering information about possible vice presidential candidates. Johnson has come under criticism for questionable mortgage loans from one of the country's top lenders, Countrywide Financial.

Johnson is a former chairman of U.S. mortgage lender Fannie Mae. He served on the three-person search team with former Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder and Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy.

McCain's campaign criticized Obama's decision to place Johnson on the search team.
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