McCain Celebrates a Big Tent Kind of Night
By Juliet Eilperin
BRYN MAWR, Pa. -- In an air-conditioned tent on the lawn of a Main Line estate tonight, Sen. John McCain told the crowd that he has a simple dream: Every citizen will one day own the kind of sprawling mansion that hosts Republican fundraisers.
Joking that he was speaking outside a "modest tract home" of Pennsylvania real estate developer Mitchell L. Morgan and his wife Hilarie, McCain marveled at the giant mixed Classic behind him. The house boasted six garages, an elaborate pool with fountains, and extensive, manicured grounds.
"This is one of the differences between me and Senator Obama," McCain said. "Senator Obama wants every American to have a home. I want every American to have a home like that." The crowd laughed.
The 550 contributors paid at least $1,000 each to attend the event, raising a total of $1.5 million for McCain's campaign. Morgan -- who started out as a shoe salesman and now heads a real estate empire with an estimated $1 billion in holdings -- offered the guests passed hors d'oeuvres such as shrimp shumai as well as a variety of soup shooters and cheeses, along with an open bar.
Having hosted a fundraiser for President Bush at his home three years ago, Morgan said he expected to be hosting another president in the near future. "We hope one day to repeat history," he said. "Pennsylvania is a state we can win."
Two of McCain's Senate colleagues, Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), showed up to demonstrate their support for the presumptive GOP nominee, as did Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett and McCain's state chair, Bob Asher. Specter left before the speaking portion of the event started, and McCain mentioned during his remarks that the senator was still in the midst of his battle against cancer.
Lieberman gave an enthusiastic plug for his friend, quipping that since Hilarie Morgan was co-hosting the event, he could use this as a talking point this fall, whenever people mused on whether allies of Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) would back a Republican presidential candidate.
"From now on, I can tell them, 'I was at a tent full of friends of Hilarie supporting McCain,' " he said. He added that the evening's haul demonstrated that McCain's bid was gathering support: "That's a kind of market statement for a free-market guy, that people believe in him."
Cindy McCain offered a more personal, solemn note, extending her sympathies to the parents of a Marine who grew up not too far away. Travis Manion died last year at age 26, during his second tour of Iraq.
McCain noted that, at one point, she and Manion's mother each wore a blue star, denoting a son actively serving in the military, although the Manions' star later became gold to signify their loss. Her husband, Cindy said, would serve as the kind of "commander in chief" that would work to keep Americans out of harm's way.
It remains unclear whether McCain will carry Pennsylvania, but the Main Line Republicans who came out in force tonight said they were firmly supporting his candidacy. One of the attendees, Marilyn Stern, said she was backing McCain because she saw stark differences between him and Sen. Barack Obama, especially in terms of foreign policy. Stern, who recently completed an executive degree at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya, Israel, said Obama's list of foreign policy advisers made her worry that the United States would pressure Israel if he was elected president.
"It doesn't bode well," she said, adding that many voters are simply uniformed about the two candidates. "Obama strikes me as a hologram: What you want to see in him is what you find. It's like looking into an abyss, and not seeing anything but darkness."
Posted at 9:22 PM ET on Jun 30, 2008
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