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McCain defends decision to skip Iowa straw poll

10:19 AM MST on Monday, June 11, 2007

By HENRY C. JACKSON / Associated Press Writer

PELLA, Iowa (AP) -- Republican presidential hopeful John McCain offered no apologies Friday for his decision to skip the Iowa Straw Poll as a man dressed in a chicken suit walked back and forth across the town square, clucking and holding a sign that read "you balked at the straw poll."

McCain announced earlier in the week that he would skip the August straw poll, held at Iowa State University in Ames - considered to be a dress rehearsal for Iowa's first-in-the nation caucuses in January.

"After Mayor Giuliani, who is either in the lead or close to it in the view of most people, and others were dropping out we thought it was probably not going to be a very valid process," he told reporters after a campaign stop in Pella. "So we decided we'd focus all our attention on getting ready for the caucus."

Friday was McCain's first visit to Iowa since pulling out of the straw poll, and took questions about Iraq, Sudan and abortion during a town hall event on Pella's picturesque city square.

McCain pledged to visit Iowa and campaign vigorously in the state.

"We're doing fine. We're very active. We've got good support. We're leading in the early states," McCain said.

Despite his optimism, McCain didn't please everybody.

As McCain spoke, a man clad in a chicken suit bobbed and weaved, flapping his arms and clucking, but did not identify himself.

McCain himself seemed amused.

"You know, in New Hampshire, in the last campaign, we had at least 12 different animals who were with us," he quipped.

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