Addressing a veterans rally for Republican Senate candidate Kelly Ayotte in Nashua on Saturday, the Arizona senator was reminiscing about his presidential campaigns in New Hampshire, where he won the Republican primaries in 2000 and 2008.
He told the audience of 200 that "this may surprise you, but I will not be running for president again." He promised, though, that he will do everything in his power to make sure New Hampshire maintains its first-in-the-nation presidential primary status.
The Republican will be 76 in 2012, the next presidential election.
McCain later made similar comments to about 200 people at an airfield in North Hampton, where Ayotte supporters held a barbecue.
It was McCain's second trip to the state to campaign for Ayotte, whom he called an "instant star" and worthy successor to departing Republican Sen. Judd Gregg.
"She will be a strong voice for a strong national defense and a voice on behalf of our veterans," he said.
But much of his attention focused on Washington -- on finding fault with the health care bill, which Republicans have promised to repeal, and on defending Republican ideas for fixing the economy.
"Our first idea is stop spending," he said. "Give the remaining stimulus money back to the taxpayer. Give the small business people a payroll tax holiday so that they can hire and invest. Make these tax cuts permanent for at least a couple of years until we come out of this terrible recession we're in."
Ayotte brought in McCain to show voters she and the two-time New Hampshire presidential primary winner share the same anti-government spending philosophy.
McCain's image as a maverick, independent-thinking Republican helped him win New Hampshire's GOP presidential primary in 2000 and again in 2008 when his campaign had faltered just months earlier. The 2008 Republican presidential nominee lost to Barack Obama in the general election.
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