And while McCain vowed more than a year ago to follow Osama bin Laden "to the gates of hell," he has offered few details about how his approach to Al Qaeda might differ from that of the Bush administration.
"I will not describe what I will do in order to get bin Laden, except to say that I'll get him," he said in Iowa last September.
Aides to the Arizona senator said Wednesday that he continued to view success in Iraq as the best chance for victory in the global war on terror.
"As on many things, Senator Obama is not listening to our commanders, and Senator McCain is," says Kori Schake, a senior policy adviser to McCain. "General David Petraeus believes Iraq is the central front in the war on terror. Al Qaeda has even said it is."
But with spiking US casualties in Afghanistan and fresh reports of growing Al Qaeda activity in Pakistan and North Africa, that may be a hard sell to voters already deeply skeptical of the Iraq war.
Ms. Schake's comments came about two hours after Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said additional troops were needed in Afghanistan but that too many were tied down in Iraq to send more.