Arizona Senator John McCain was in Iowa Thursday to help Republican candidates for governor and congress raise campaign cash, but McCain is warning that 2006 will not be an easy road for the GOP. “I think we have a tough election coming up,” McCain says.

The rebounding economy as well as local issues and personalities will have some influence on the final outcome, but McCain is less than optimistic. “I don’t discount that this is going to be a tough election for Republicans all over the country,” McCain says.

President Bush’s approval ratings have fallen to all-time lows and McCain points to polls which show just less than one-third of American approve of the job performance of the Republican-led Congress. McCain himself may be seeking a new job in 2008, that of president. McCain’s trip to Iowa is an indication he will compete in Iowa’s lead-off Caucuses.

McCain did not run here in 2000, but started in New Hampshire where he scored a victory over then-Governor George Bush. “Iowans feel that everybody should come here and compete and I understand that,” McCain says. “We didn’t have the resources, primarily. We just didn’t have the money to come here and to wage what we thought was a viable campaign in New Hampshire, but I can certainly understand why people wouldn’t like it if you don’t come here. That’s the Iowa Caucuses.”

While McCain appears prepared to compete in Iowa this time around, McCain’s stand on key issues like immigration and ethanol highlight the obstacles that stand in the way. McCain has a long record of opposing the tax advantage for corn-based ethanol. “I don’t like subsidies,” McCain says.

McCain isn’t sure how that will play in Iowa. “I hope that people will understand my position and judge me on my overall record and view of the future and all that, but I don’t know how they’ll judge it,” McCain says.

McCain made his comments at a news conference in Des Moines. He made appearances yesterday in Dyersville, Cedar Rapids and Muscatine, too.