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Originally published Saturday, May 31, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Campaign Notebook

McCain, Obama argue over troop levels

Republican John McCain's estimate of U.S. troop levels in Iraq touched off squabbling with Democrat Barack Obama on Friday, the latest...

MILWAUKEE — Republican John McCain's estimate of U.S. troop levels in Iraq touched off squabbling with Democrat Barack Obama on Friday, the latest turn in the presidential rivals' escalating disagreement over the war.

The likely GOP nominee said Thursday: "We have drawn down to pre-surge levels. Basra, Mosul and now Sadr City are quiet."

Obama responded: "That's not true, and anyone running for commander in chief should know better."

In fact, U.S. troop levels are not down to levels that preceded President Bush's troop increase last year, a shift McCain had pushed for four years before the president authorized it.

There were 15 combat brigades in Iraq before the increase began. Five were added, and the United States has been reducing numbers since December. As of Friday, there were 17 brigades in Iraq, another brigade will depart in June and the plan is to pull out another in July, returning the level to 15.

Before the increase, there were 130,000-135,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. As of this week, that number was 155,000, and the Pentagon plans to drop that to 140,000 by the end of July.

The McCain campaign blamed a parsing of verb tense and semantics. McCain insisted Friday that he didn't misspeak.

McCain tells of time as POW for film

As Oliver Stone prepares an unflattering biographical film about President Bush for release just before the presidential election, Sen. John McCain is mustering movie power of his own.

At a fundraising stop in California on Wednesday, McCain quietly slipped into a suite at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, where he recorded an interview to be included with the first DVD edition of the 1987 film "The Hanoi Hilton."

The movie is a fictional account of American military men who were confined and tortured at Hoa Lo prison in Hanoi during the Vietnam War. McCain, a downed pilot, spent more than five years as a prisoner of war, part of it at Hoa Lo. The experience was chronicled in a drama televised three years ago on A&E and based on his book, "Faith of My Fathers."

S.D. newspaper endorses Clinton

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WASHINGTON — South Dakota's largest newspaper endorsed Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination while acknowledging that rival Barack Obama may be unbeatable.

The Argus Leader in Sioux Falls said in an editorial Friday that Clinton "is the strongest Democratic candidate for South Dakota."

"Her mastery of complex policy detail is broad and deep, and her experience as a senator and former first lady matches that," the editorial said.

South Dakota and Montana hold the last primaries in the marathon Democratic nomination race Tuesday. South Dakota has 15 delegates at stake, Montana 16.

Obama gains 2 superdelegates

AUSTIN, Texas — Barack Obama picked up two Texas superdelegates, bringing him closer to locking up the Democratic presidential nomination.

Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie and his wife, Democratic National Committee member Betty Richie, endorsed Obama for president late Thursday.

"I believe Senator Obama is the candidate who can best provide the leadership and change Texans desire," Boyd Richie said.

Hillary Rodham Clinton narrowly won the state's primary March 4, but Obama has prevailed in two rounds of caucuses that also determine pledged delegates.

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