McCain's Seven-State Sprint: Arizona
PRESCOTT, Ariz. -- Addressing a crowd of supporters for the eighth time in 24 hours, GOP presidential nominee John McCain told his backers, "I have always put my country first. I promise you, I will put my country first."
When McCain headed to the podium, accompanied by his wife Cindy, he didn't bound up on stage but instead walked up at a leisurely pace and held his arms out with his thumbs up. But both McCains appeared relieved to have made it home.
Cindy spoke first. "Hello, Arizona, it is so nice to be home. Thank you," she told the assembled crowd. "It's been a long day coming home, but a wonderful day."
Her voice cracking with emotion, Cindy McCain said, "I am so proud to introduce to you tonight my husband, John McCain."
McCain began his remarks by telling one of his favorite Arizona jokes -- the one that takes note of the fact that he and fellow Arizonans Barry Goldwater, Mo Udall and Bruce Babbitt have all run failed presidential bids in the past. Udall, he recalled, liked to remark, "Arizona may be the only state in America where mothers don't tell their children they might grow up and be president. Tomorrow we're going to reverse that unhappy tradition, and I'm going to be the president of the United States."
The speech McCain delivered here did not vary substantially from the remarks he has made repeatedly over the last few weeks. Alluding to the nation's troubled economy, McCain said he would work to solve the current mortgage crisis. "Arizona, along with some other states, has some of the highest foreclosure rates," he said. "I will keep Americans in their home. And we will realize the American dream when I'm president in the United States."
But he also returned to the initial theme on which he had launched his campaign in 2007: national security. "My friends, keeping this nation secure is our first priority," he said.
Recalling how the mother of Matthew Stanley, a New Hampshire native who was killed in combat outside of Baghdad last year, had asked him to ensure that her son's death was not in vain, McCain said he would both pursue the war Stanley had fought in, and would also work to inspire other young men and women pursue the path of public service to which he had dedicated his life.
"I think of her every single day," he said. "That's what I can do, to ensure a generation of Americans to serve a cause greater than their self-interest."
While McCain's talk was largely upbeat, the audience that welcomed him home highlighted the polarization of American politics that has intensified over the course of the 2008 campaign. There was a sizable group of protesters standing across the street, chanting "Obama! Obama!" And as the traveling press corps entered the event, several members of the crowd started shouting, "Liberal media! Liberal media!"
Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.), who spoke before McCain arrived, asked the senator's backers, 'Are you ready to prove to the crowd over there that they don't have much in the way of voices?'" The audience roared in response.
"Winning this election, from this moment forward, is not up to John McCain and Sarah Palin," Shadegg cautioned the group. "From this moment forward, it's up to you, and me."
HENDERSON, Nev. -- While John McCain and his allies have already logged thousands of miles over more than 14 hours as part of their cross-country rally marathon, they haven't run out of quips.
Introducing his friend here at the Henderson Pavilion, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) said he had endorsed a Republican for president this year because "country matters more than party" -- and he could afford to take such a risk, given Las Vegas' popular slogan.
"I know there are some Democrats that are unhappy with me that I'm here supporting John McCain tomorrow," he told the crowd, which roared with approval in return. "But that doesn't matter, because I know whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas."
"As they say in Vegas, it's show time," Lieberman continued. "Tomorrow is time to choose."
McCain put a slightly different spin on the catchphrase once he began speaking, predicting that a win here would help put Nevada in the GOP column. "What happens in Las Vegas is going to end with us winning this election tomorrow," he said. The audience cheered.
McCain attacks Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in every stump speech, and he made a point of attacking the Nevada Democrat twice here in his home state. Suggesting that Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama simply adhered to his party's line, McCain declared, "Senator Obama's never taken on Harry Reid. I have."
"This is the same Harry Reid who said in April 2007 that the war was lost," he added.
The pavilion erupted into a chorus of boos.
ROSWELL, N.M. -- When you're in UFO country, you've just got to joke about it.
At least, that's what GOP presidential nominee John McCain did at his rally here tonight. Shortly after taking the stage, he said, "I'm pleased to announce I've received the alien endorsement," which pleased the crowd that had gathered in the balmy evening air to hear him speak. "And I'm proud," he added.
He proceeded to make a regional pitch to voters here, saying he understood their concerns after representing Arizona in Congress for more than a quarter century.
"I am a Western senator. I'm from your neighboring state," he said, as his supporters cheered. "I understand border issues. I understand water issues. I understand land."
"I am prepared to defend the southwestern part of the United States," he added. "My friends, I understand those issues, my opponent does not."
But McCain also had words of sympathy for Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, whose grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, died today.
"He is in our thoughts and our prayers," McCain said. "We mourn his loss, and we are with him in our thoughts today."
McCain sandwiched those words of sympathy in between remarks praising his running mate, Sarah Palin. With no transition, he followed his comments on Dunham's death by saying that Palin "is going to shake up Washington. I'm sorry she hasn't been on the Georgetown cocktail circuit, but she's going to shake things up in Washington."
INDIANAPOLIS -- John McCain has not visited here since July 1, and while a large crowd welcomed him to the state this afternoon, some wondered whether he should have come a bit sooner.
Barack Obama has worked aggressively to bring the state into the Democratic column this election, and it now stands as a pure tossup. Mark Shaver, a 58-year-old attorney from Indianapolis who came out for McCain's airport rally, said Republicans can not assume Indiana's safe for the GOP.
"I wish he had been here before now," Shaver said in an interview. "Had he come here a couple of times, the people of Indiana really would have warmed up to him, had he advertised more. He's barely advertised here. Sarah Palin's been here three times, but he hasn't. I know you have limited time and resources in a campaign, but he may have taken the state a little bit for granted."
Shaver added that he thought the state would end up backing McCain tomorrow, but the margin between the parties would be close. "This is the sort of state ABC usually calls at 6:45 -- you're not going to have that this year," he said. "This is going to be one of those late-night states."
MOON TOWNSHIP, Penn. -- As John McCain and his campaign touched down here, just outside of Pittsburgh, they had a simple message for the men and women who gathered here in an airport hangar: McCain loves coal.
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge (R) kicked off the sooty theme by suggesting that Democratic presidential Barack Obama doesn't sufficiently appreciate the resource's contribution to the U.S. economy.
"He doesn't understand that 50 percent of the electricity in America is generated by coal," Ridge told the audience. "We're not only going to drill, baby, drill -- we're going to dig, baby, dig. Dig, baby, dig."
McCain went even further in attacking Obama, making a point of saying that his opponent told "a San Francisco newspaper that, quote, 'So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can -- it's just that it will bankrupt them." McCain deliberately cut off the quote in mid-sentence. It continues with Obama saying, "because they're going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that's being emitted."
"I believe we need to control emissions, you know that, but I'm not going to let our coal industry go bankrupt, and I'm not going to let coal workers lose their jobs," McCain continued. "We can't abandon coal, my friends."
In reality, McCain backs the same sort of federal cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gases as Obama, which will transform the utility industry and probably lead to higher energy prices in the short term. The main difference between the candidates is that McCain supports a 60 percent reduction in greenhouse gases compared with 1990 levels by mid-century, while Obama backs an 80 percent reduction by 2050, which is the target endorsed by most scientists who study climate change. Obama would charge all polluters for the greenhouse gas emission permits they would have to obtain in order to release carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, while McCain would provide an unspecified amount of those permits for free.
BLOUNTSVILLE, Tenn. -- John McCain landed in Tennessee and promptly started talking about ... Virginia.
McCain's aides chose the airport hangar rally here because it was an easy way for the GOP presidential nominee to hit southwest Virginia and North Carolina television markets at the same time. Barack Obama isn't seriously competing here, but he is challenging McCain in such traditionally red states as Virginia and North Carolina.
A few thousand people from both Virginia and Tennessee showed up to cheer McCain on, along with the state's two Republican senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, and former Tennessee GOP senator Fred Thompson. Thompson competed against McCain for their party's nomination this year, but the two men remain close, and Thompson endorsed him after dropping out of the race.
"We need to win Virginia on November fourth," McCain told the crowd. "Knock on doors, get your neighbors to the polls. I need your vote!"
He also brought the crowd greetings from his running mate, "the governor from the great state of Alaska, Sarah Palin," and alluded to his appearance this weekend on "Saturday Night Live" with Palin's comedic doppelganger Tina Fey.
"I really believe Sarah Palin and Tina Fey were separated at birth," he told the audience, prompting laughter. "I really do."
TAMPA -- Call these events speed rallies -- the Tampa gathering lasted just over 13 minutes, as John McCain raced through the highlights of his standard stump speech. Standing in front a billboard that featured a skull-and-bones clutching a football along with Coca-Cola and Hess logos, the nominee blasted Barack Obama for his stance on taxes and drilling. (In the campaign's more light-hearted days, McCain used to joke he was a pirate. Senior aide Steve Duprey quipped today, "We only came here because we wanted a pirate in the backdrop.")
"Senator Obama's massive new tax increases would kill jobs, make a bad economy worse," McCain told a crowd of roughly 1,300 standing outside in the sunshine, which booed appreciatively in response. "I'm not going to let that happen."
Using a trope he has employed frequently in recent days, McCain said, "If I'm -- when I'm elected president, we're gonna stop sending 700 billion to countries that don't like us very much, including Hugo Chevez, my friends." He then tossed in a specific promise for Florida. "We will have environmentally safe offshore drilling, Senator Obama opposes it. We will drill offshore and drill now. And you know what? We're going to take more of those revenues and share them with Florida."
TAMPA -- Maybe McCain really SHOULD have all his rallies at midnight.
When the Straight Talk Express headed from the airport toward 65,000-seat Raymond James Stadium, it looked to be an audacious move. But the stadium was closed and empty. McCain's rally was in a field across the street, where there were all of 1,100 people awaiting the candidate, a disastrous showing for an election-eve event in this big, Republican town. A vast, fenced off overflow area went unoccupied.
But the candidate pressed ahead, no doubt aware that the densely packed crowd would still look good on TV. "Thank you all for being here," he said. "With this kind of enthusiasm, this kind of intensity, we will win Florida!"
He went on with his usual stump speech, including the part featuring his ongoing effort to call Obama the "redistributionist in chief." Yesterday it came out as "redistrict." In Tampa, he called Obama the "redistribution in [pause] ist in chief."
TAMPA -- In an elaborate, last-minute effort aimed at bringing undecided voters to his side, GOP presidential candidate John McCain embarked on a seven-state, 20-hour cross-country odyssey today.
McCain, who started out this morning in Miami, touched down in Tampa around 9:10 a.m. and headed straight to Raymond James Stadium for his first rally for the day. The arena gathering marked an exception to the airport hangar rallies that dominate his schedule today, allowing him to journey to as many cities as possible.
Nearly every place the Arizonan is visiting -- Tampa, Moon Township, Penn., Indianapolis, Ind., Roswell, N.M., Henderson, Nev., and Prescott, Ariz. -- is located in a swing state. The one exception is Blountville, Tenn., which campaign aides picked because it will ensure McCain will appear on television in both southwestern Virginia and North Carolina as a result.
CORAL GABLES -- The fire alarm goes off at McCain's hotel, the Biltmore, and sirens blare in the rooms, along with a recording: "An alarm has been detected and is being investigated. Do not panic." Nobody panics. They are too tired to panic.
McCain's motorcade arrived at the Biltmore at 1:20 a.m. Within moments, there were 58 people in line at the reception desk, where three clerks were taking credit-card imprints. The journalists received word that they'd need to have their bags in the lobby at 5:30 a.m., giving the McCain entourage roughly three hours to sleep. The campaign also announced that, because of logistical complications, half the press corps would have to skip two of McCain's events on Monday, which led to a mad scramble to locate another charter plane at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars.
At 1:45 a.m., reporters, camera crews and staffers picked up their bags and headed to their rooms. Getting on an elevator with Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), a cameraman observed that his luggage had been left out in the rain and his clothes were now wet.
It is a luxurious hotel, a member of the Leading Hotels of the World, and the kind of place where they put slippers at your bedside. But, with a 5 a.m. wake-up call, there was no time to enjoy the pampering.
At 7:35 a.m., two hours after reporters were directed to bring their luggage to the lobby, McCain hopped into his SUV. An hour later, Straight Talk Air, McCain's 737, is on its way to Tampa, the first of seven stops for McCain on Tuesday. The death march has only begun, and he's already half an hour late.
MIAMI -- You know Joe the Plumber. Now, meet Pepe the Feather Duster.
John McCain's motorcade pulls into the BankUnited Center, the University of Miami basketball arena. His campaign plane had just landed in Miami after a desultory day of campaigning in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. The candidate's spirits leap, however, when he sees a crowd of 10,000 awaiting him, many of them Cuban Americans and virtually all of them very, very loud.
Before he starts his speech, somebody whispers to him, and he scribbles a note to himself. When he gets to the part in his speech about the Ohio plumber who challenges Barack Obama on his tax plan, McCain checks the note he has just written. "Joe the plumber -- or, as they say in Little Havana, Pepe el Plumero," McCain tells the Cuban Americans, struggling over the pronunciation. "That's the last time I try that," he says.
Good thing. First, it's not clear why Joe's Hispanic counterpart would be Pepe and not Jose. Worse, McCain's pronunciation of the Spanish "plomero" -- actually, the more common word is "fotanero" -- makes it sound more like plumero, the Spanish word for feather duster. No matter: the crowd cheers the attempt.
McCain, in turn, is cheered by the boisterous crowd. They wave signs with messages such as "Viva Mac." A band is playing loud horn music before he enters, and the vocalist is singing, "McCain, McCain, donde esta McCain?"
Aqui esta. McCain comes out in an open-collar dress shirt with a windowpane pattern and a pen in his pocket. The crowd, though not Obama size, is many times bigger than those at his rallies during the day on Sunday. "We ought to have all our rallies at this time of night, I'm telling you," McCain says. Members of his press corps do not agree.
Posted at 11:50 PM ET on Nov 3, 2008
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