I got into the call a minute or so late. Several things occurred to me.
First, John McCain is not as tired as he used to be. He is clearly energized by this fight. He talked about being on the bus with his POW buddies. That seems important for him psychologically.
Second, that image strikes me as very powerful. This is all re-invoking the battles of the 70s. McCain and a bunch of POWs saying, "Don’t let them do to us what they did in Viet Nam," is a remarkable idea. Especially in the older Iowa Caucus crowd, that contrast and invocation should be a powerful memory.
Third, McCain is the most comfortable of all the candidates on either side in simply talking about the war. If I were the campaign, I would make sure that these sessions are videoed and available online. These will probably be some of the best material that press and activists can see on what is actually going on.
Fourth, I think that McCain understands how tortured Republicans are on this. I asked him how people in Iowa were responding, given the polling that indicates that Republicans in Iowa seem very open to a withdrawal. The combination of POWs, a call to honor, the demand that we not lose, and an open discussion of wanting to get out, but not in vain… That, again, strikes me as a good way to yank on the heart strings of Iowans.