Sen. John McCain touted his experience and Western roots in his bid for the White House during a brief campaign stop Saturday in this rural, Republican-friendly Nevada enclave.
"I am prepared to lead, I need no on-the-job training," the Arizona Republican told about 300 people gathered at the steps of the Elko County Courthouse, in northeastern Nevada.
McCain criticized both parties on the war in Iraq. The war was mismanaged in its early stages, he said, but Democrats' attempts to enforce a timetable for withdrawal are misguided and won't prevail.
President George W. Bush has said he will veto a war funding bill that contains the timetable. Democrats in Congress have stood by the plan.
McCain said he believes Democrats will back down rather face blame for any possible consequences of holding up funding by insisting on a withdrawal timetable.
"The fact is they won't do it because then they have to take responsibility for what takes place," he said.
McCain's visit was part of a five-state, four-day swing to officially kickoff his presidential campaign. He was to wrap up the tour later in the day in Tempe, Arizona.
McCain has been trailing in polls and fundraising to Republican Rudolph Giuliani, the former mayor of New York. The senator has struggled to maintain his reputation for political independence while staunchly defending the administration's increasing unpopular war policies.
In a speech in Las Vegas last week, McCain criticized Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid when the Nevada Democrat said the war in Iraq was "lost."
Though rural areas of Nevada are heavily supportive of Bush, McCain could have an uphill battle in other parts of the state, particularly in populous Clark County in southern Nevada that includes Las Vegas.
McCain has a record of supporting the opening of a nuclear waste storage site at Yucca Mountain, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. The waste dump is strongly opposed by Democrats and Republicans in the state.