McCain stop in Ohio has a German flavor

Republican presidential candidate John McCain had his own German experience Thursday – at a restaurant in Ohio. He asserted that he was happy to devote his time this week to touring the nation's heartland.

“I'd love to give a speech in Germany. But I'd much prefer to do it as president of the United States rather than as a candidate for president,” McCain told reporters after a meal of bratwurst with business leaders at Schmidt's Sausage Haus und Restaurant in Columbus' German Village neighborhood.

As Barack Obama spoke in Berlin, McCain said he was focusing attention this week on economic issues, including food and fuel costs. He has been busy in key battleground states such as Ohio.

In what was clearly not a coincidence, McCain spoke with reporters shortly before Obama began his speech at Berlin's Victory Column. At the same time, the Republican National Committee was running anti-Obama ads in Berlin, Pa., and other namesake villages in Wisconsin and New Hampshire.

McCain is trying hard to get attention during Obama's week abroad. He had planned to visit an offshore oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday, but rough seas from Hurricane Dolly caused him to scrub that trip. He was to appear with famed cyclist Lance Armstrong later Thursday at a town hall meeting focused on cancer.

He said he regretted not being able to make the trip to the drilling rig, a visit intended to emphasize his support for lifting of the ban on offshore drilling. President Bush earlier this month rescinded an executive order reinforcing the congressional ban, but Congress must act as well for the moratorium on Outer Continental Shelf drilling to be abolished.

“I'm sorry Congress is gridlocked again on offshore drilling,” McCain said. “When I'm president, we'll all sit down together and work this out.”

On Europe, where Obama has been meeting with leaders, McCain said cultivating good relations with a new generation of European leaders was important. “A lot of these leaders are a lot more pro-American than their predecessors were,” he said.

The Arizona senator defended his assertions that Obama was more interested in winning a campaign than winning the war in Iraq. Democrats have suggested McCain went overboard, implying that the Illinois Democrat would put the nation's children at jeopardy for political reasons.

“All of us care about our children,” McCain said. “I stand by my comments.”

McCain has complained that Obama's support for a fixed timetable to withdraw troops ignores recent progress made under President Bush's troop buildup.

“It's clear Sen. Obama doesn't understand what's at stake here. It's pretty obvious he's taken this position to secure the nomination of his party.”

Before settling down to lunch in Columbus, McCain bounded through the crowded restaurant shaking hands and posing for photographs with patrons.

He was overheard remarking on the “great sausages here.”

“Can we have a couple of cream puffs to go, too?” he asked.