Three years of careful courtship and a relentless focus on the Iraq war have paid off for Sen. John McCain.

Republican sources confirm that the New Hampshire Union Leader, the state's influential conservative daily based in Manchester, will endorse McCain in an editorial to be published tomorrow morning.

McCain first sat down with Union Leader publisher Joseph McQuaid three years ago and spoke at the Nackey Loeb dinner, honoring a beloved former publisher of the paper. McCain and wife Cindy have even contributed to the paper's Christmas fund. In 2000, the paper's editorialists attacked McCain and endorsed Steve Forbes. Then, McQuaid called McCain "the most liberal guy on the Republican side.) The paper endorsed Pat Buchanan in 1992 and 1996 and, er, Pete DuPont in 1988.

But this year, McQuaid has praised McCain for his foresight and sticktoitiveness on Iraq in several front page editorials.

McCain's campaign aides declined to comment.

Monday, his campaign begins a six-day bus tour in the state.

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