McCain's Off to the Movies
By Juliet Eilperin
CHARLESTON, S.C. -- It's moments like these that make you wonder why candidates even bother to show up at polling stations on primary day.
With much fanfare, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) arrived before noon at West Ashley Middle School to greet voters. There weren't that many to see: the number of journalists on site outnumbered registered South Carolinians by a factor of at least 3 to 1. Plus, McCain's very presence served as a minor impediment to voters, since the reporters craning their necks to catch a glimpse of him blocked the way of ordinary citizens hoping to perform their civic duty.
After a few moments McCain, along with his wife, mother, three of his children and politicians including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and South Carolina's House Speaker Bobby Harrell, retreated to the Straight Talk Express, where the senator conducted a brief press conference. Most of what he said what indecipherable, but it seems he views today's GOP primary as "very important."
The few voters who managed to show up at the polling station cast their ballots for an array of GOP candidates, but at least a couple backed McCain. Delbert Norrington, a retiree who lives in Charleston, was actually hoping to vote for Fred Thompson but decided the former Tennessee senator was too much of a long shot in the presidential race.
"If you want your vote to count, you've got to vote for someone who has a chance. It's a shame, because I agree with just about everything he says," Norrington said of Thompson. Still, he said he considered McCain "a good conservative."
In addition to scribes, politicians and voters, a few animal-rights activists made it to West Ashley Middle School today: two representatives of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals dressed in bright-pink pig suits stood outside the polling station with signs declaring "Cut the Pork, Tax Meat."
According to PETA spokeswoman Ashley Byrne (who was not wearing a pig outfit--apparently it's hard to respond to a reporter's questions when encased in a fuzzy animal suit), the federal government provides "millions of dollars in subsidies" each year to the American meat industry. "It's one of the most environmentally-destructive products you can buy, and one of the unhealthiest products you can buy."
PETA officials have taken to standing at polling stations in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina to convey their message to members of Congress. "We're just taking it on the campaign and hoping people think about it," Byrne said, adding her group backs a ten cent excise tax on meat.
Unfortunately amid all the hoopla, McCain did not have a chance to engage with the pig protesters, so it's unclear whether he will be reevaluating his position on the issue in the near future
McCain had a more fruitful visit earlier in the morning to Force Protection Industries Inc., where he and his entourage inspected armored Humvees with names including Buffalo, Cheetah and Cougar. "What you're doing here saves lives," he told roughly a dozen employees, adding that in one instance Iraqi insurgents jumped out of a car with children in it and then watched the car explode. "These people, they kill their own children. What would they do to our children is they had the chance?"
Cindy McCain did climb into one of the vehicles, at which point her husband called out, "Take it up to ninety!"
McCain told the reporters traveling with him that he was "feeling fine," but could not predict the impact of today's weather on voters.
"I'm worried about the weather, but what can I do about it?" he said, adding that former governor Mike Huckabee's supporters might be more likely to vote under these circumstances. "I think if we have a decent turnout, we'll be fine. I think the evangelicals will turn out."
Instead of spending his time obsessing about the rain and snow, however, McCain observed his usual election day ritual of going to the movies, in this case, "There Will Be Blood" with Daniel Day-Lewis. He had been mulling over the idea of watching the Coen brothers' "No Country for Old Men," but decided that might not be the best film to see while vying for front-runner status in the GOP presidential race.
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