ROCHESTER -- We're in the historic Rochester Opera House where a capacity crowd of 500 is waiting for a one-hour town hall meeting to begin. The campaign prefers to hold these events in the round, but the opera house stage won't bend that way, and so the audience is separated by a blue barrier from the candidate. There are nine television cameras set up on a platform and about 30 newspaper, online and periodical journalists tapping away on computers on the balcony. The audience is white; the average age cohort is "middle."

Bill Condon, a Democrat for McCain, introduces the candidate. "I've never voted for a Republican. I've never dreamt that I would." That changed a year ago when he fell in love with the candidate at a bar-b-q. "He tells people not what they want to hear, but what they need to hear."

I can see McCain peaking through the curtain.

Like the orchestra at the Oscars, the campaign's audio techs politely play Dr. Condon off the stage ... McCain's entrance music increases in volume... Condon inches off to the right and cuts off his introduction.

40 seconds of a standing ovation and applause as McCain comes out. He is wearing a jet black suit and a striped gray and blue tie.

Obligatory: "Coming back to New Hampshire is like coming home..." He acknowledges local office-holders and the Republican gubernatorial candidate.

A mainstay: he recognizes and thanks the veterans.

"I know that you know that there's been a lot of back and forth about this issue and ... i would remind you that.. well over a year ago when everyone declared my candidacy dead.. when I said that the strategy had failed and we had to do the surge.....and now, we are winning."

Mention of Gen. David Petraeus's name gets applause.

McCain: "If we had his way, we would have never have done the surge, we would have been defeated. He was wrong then, he is wrong now, and he still fails to acknowledge that the surge succeeded. Remarkable. Remarkable. He just received his first briefing from Gen. P, and he declared his policy before he left."

Says the troops with come home with "victory."

McCain: "Now he wants to reverse the gains he has made and set a date for withdrawal..."

Predicts a "stable and pro-American government in Iraq." "They have a long way to go and its very tough and long and hard, but we have seen the process of success and the enormous reduction in violence and sectarian violence..."

McCain: "I had the courage and judgment to say that i would rather win the war than [win] a political campaign. It seems to me that Sen. Obama would rather lose the war than win a political campaign.

McCain: "I hope that he will have the courage to reverse his position... I've requested to have town hall meetings with him.."

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