CLAREMONT, N.H. -- With an "Independents Vote McCain" sign plastered on the wall, Senator John McCain stood in the middle of a small American Legion Post here and the first issue he talked about was climate change, later declaring that health care was the country biggest domestic issue.
Both issues are among those that nearly always come up at events with Democratic presidential candidates, but rarely with Republicans.
As McCain struggles with what he said Saturday were "post-mortum" stories about his campaign due to staff shake-ups and a small bank account, he rounded out a trip to New Hampshire, trying to find some of the same magic he had when he won the state's presidential primary in 2000.
After discussing climate change, the federal budget, adult education to help ease the pains of manufacturing job losses, and the Iraq war, he took an unusually high 19 questions from the audience of about 100. At most events candidates generally answer 5 to 10 questions.
McCain also made several jokes, as is his style. He called his staff jerks -- jokingly. He called Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden a "friend" but "long-winded," and he openly admitted to pandering to the AARP by saying he wants to hold a series of town hall meetings with the senior citizens organization to discuss their initiative on health care and retirement security.
When one person asked about immigration, seen by many Republicans to be their biggest domestic issue, McCain joked that "this meeting is over." His immigration plan has been very unpopular with the Republican base and was recently defeated in the US Senate.
Asked by reporters if his choice of topics was meant to appeal to independent voters who can vote in the state's presidential primary, and viewed as the reason McCain won the primary seven years ago, McCain said that independent voters were "very important."
In a follow-up question he was asked if he was picking issues that would appeal more to independents than Republicans, but McCain said he hasn't put a lot of thought into that.
"I don't know what is a Republican issue or not, but I do now that climate change is a big issue itself," McCain responded.