McCain disagreed with comments from fellow GOP rival Mitt Romney.
"Former Governor Romney yesterday proclaimed himself the only real Republican in this race," McCain said according to remarks released by his campaign for delivery Saturday to a gathering of the New Hampshire Republican Party. "As we all know, when he ran for office in Massachusetts being a Republican wasn't much of a priority for him. In fact, when he ran against Ted Kennedy, he said he didn't want to return to the days of Reagan-Bush. I always thought Ronald Reagan was a real Republican."
"When Governor Romney donated money to a Democratic candidate in New Hampshire, I don't think he was speaking for Republicans," the GOP presidential hopeful went on to say. "When he voted for a Democratic candidate for President, Paul Tsongas, I don't think he was speaking for Republicans. When he refused to endorse the Contract with America, I don't think he was speaking for Republicans. And when he was embracing the Democratic position on many major issues of the day, I don't think he was speaking for Republicans."
"So you'll understand why I'm a little perplexed when Mitt Romney now suggests that he's a better Republican than me," McCain said, "or that he speaks for the Republican wing of the Republican Party."
Fred Thompson's campaign weighed in on Romney's comments as well.
"In 1994, Mitt Romney accomplished what people had long thought was impossible – he ran for Senate to the left of Ted Kennedy," said Todd Harris, Thompson's Communications Director in an e-mail statement Saturday. "I didn't know there was any room there. For him to now claim to represent the Republican wing of the Republican Party is yet another Mitt Romney flip flop."
“There is an important contrast between Governor Romney and the other candidates. While some fought the line-item veto with lawsuits in court, Governor Romney was using the line-item as governor to stop wasteful spending," said Kevin Madden, Romney's national spokesman in a statement to CNN. "While other candidates are opposed to a Federal Marriage Amendment to protect traditional marriage, Governor Romney has strongly supported it. While other candidates in this race voted against the Bush tax cuts that have delivered growth to our economy, Governor Romney has called for extending that tax relief. Governor Romney's strong record of bringing about conservative change is what sets him apart from the other candidates."
“The status-quo mindset that has gripped Washington and molded those that have been there for so long is in need of fresh ideas and conservative change that can only come from outside of Washington," Madden said. "Angry attacks from flailing campaigns won’t stop Governor Romney from moving forward with his optimistic agenda designed to bring sorely needed change to Washington.”
McCain was scheduled to campaign in New Hampshire on Saturday and Sunday.
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- CNN Political Desk Editor Jamie Crawford