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McCain insists 'signs of progress' in Iraq

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(CNN) -- A day after the broadcast of an interview in which he admitted overstating security advances in Baghdad, U.S. Sen. John McCain said Monday that he still believes the Iraq war is winnable and "unfortunately, the American people are not being told of the progress that's being made" there.

The Arizona Republican also told reporters at a news conference in Phoenix that in backing President Bush's plan to beef up troop levels in Iraq, he did not consider the possible effect of fallout on his presidential campaign, a consideration he said was "totally irrelevant" to more pressing national security concerns.

"I believe that we have to succeed. Otherwise, this country will have much greater problems than anything to do with my political ambitions," McCain said. "I'd rather lose a campaign than lose a war."

However, while backing Bush's troop increase, McCain reiterated his criticism of the way the Iraq war has been carried out, charging it was "very badly mismanaged and mishandled, for which we are paying a very, very heavy price."

"But today, we are where we are, and I believe we are making progress," he said. "These are small signs of progress. They are not large signs of progress. We will know [more] when we get more of our surge over there."

McCain has been engaged in damage control over remarks he made after visiting Baghdad's outdoor Shorja market on April 1.

Prior to the trip, McCain said the security situation in the Iraq capital had improved to the point where there were some areas where people could walk freely, and, after his visit to Shorja, he pointed to the market as one of those areas -- despite the fact that he wore body armor and was accompanied by armed troops and helicopter gunships on his visit there.

In an interview with CBS News' "60 Minutes" that aired Sunday, McCain admitted he misspoke in his remarks about his trip to the market. However, in Monday's news conference, the senator again pointed to Shorja as an example of the progress being made in Iraq.

"Of course, it isn't entirely safe. But it is a functioning market, and progress is being made there," McCain said. He also said he talked to numerous Iraqis during the trip who also told him the security situation is improving.

McCain said that while he would have been "comfortable" touring the market without the additional security, he did so at the recommendation of the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Lt. Gen. David Petreaus.

"I'm not notorious for being nervous about going anywhere," said McCain, who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War.

McCain also told reporters that he was "very happy with where we are" in his presidential campaign, despite trailing two of his leading rivals for the GOP nomination in fund-raising during the first quarter of the year.

"Obviously, we would have liked to have raised more money. We will try to do better next time," he said.

McCain's campaign said it raised $12.5 million during the first quarter, compared to $14 million for former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and $20.6 million for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

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U.S. Senator John McCain reiterated his criticism of the way the Iraq war has been carried out.

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