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McCain Rallies McDonnell Supporters

Anita Kumar

VIRGINIA BEACH -- Sen. John McCain, the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, headlined a packed veterans rally for Virginia's Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell on a cold, rainy Saturday morning.

About 300 supporters crammed into a Veterans of Foreign Wars post that had been decorated with massive red, white and blue "Veterans for McDonnell" signs.

"This is the man who will bring about fiscal discipline, who understands what it means to balance a budget, who understands what pork barrel spending is, who understands that we have an obligation not just to our present citizens and out present veterans but to our children and our grandchildren and not hand them an unsustainable debt,'' McCain said. "That's Bob McDonnell. He will be a fiscal conservative."

A Navy veteran, McCain was once based at nearby Naval Air Station Oceana. He told funny stories about his military career and said the nation needs a new direction.

"My friends, there's something going on out there in America,'' McCain said. "It's anger and it's frustration. They're sick and tired of the corruption in Washington. They're sick and tired of the earmark and pork barrel spending."

McCain praised McDonnell as a "fiscal conservative" who will fight government spending and criticized Democrat Creigh Deeds for a barrage of negative TV ads.

"I've seen ads night after night. I've seen attacks on his character,'' he said. "They're wrong and the people of Virginia will reject that kind of campaigning."

McCain and McDonnell, who both wore blue jackets but no ties, bounded to the stage to extended applause while the song Danger Zone from the movie Top Gun blared from speakers.

The senator was introduced by Paul Galanti, a fellow prisoner of war in Vietnam who called McCain "my friend who should be president of the United States right now." McCain's son, Doug, a Virginia resident, attended.

McCain did not mention his former rival by name but joked about his failed election last year. "Every place I go people said 'I voted for you, I voted for you,''' he said. "I'm going to demand a recount!"

McDonnell smiled broadly when McCain called him "Governor McDonnell,''and later told the audience that McCain "would have made an outstanding president of the United States of America."

Virginia Beach resident Rebecca Randolph, who accompanied her veteran father to the rally, supported McCain last year and remains disappointed with Obama. "He's a socialist. He takes from the rich and gives to the poor. He's spending all this money,'' she said. "Show me where it's worked."

Others were also critical of the president. "He's taken on too much,'' said Jim Pogue, a Virginia Beach stay-at-home dad who came with his 14-year-old son J.W.

The heavily populated and racially diverse Hampton Roads is one of the state's crucial swing areas and home to core constituencies for both parties. Per capita, more veterans live in Virginia than any state, which is also home to the world's largest naval base.

McDonnell, a former Army officer, was accompanied by several members of his family, including his 28-year-old daughter Jeanine who served in Iraq and now heads his father's veterans outreach program.

"This is an incredibly great nation that we love freedom and democracy so much that we're willing to serve and send Americans into harm's way...to be able to usher in freedom for people that we don't even know because we know it's the right thing to do," McDonnell said.

McDonnell traveled in his blue eight-seater "Jobs Mobile" to a town hall meeting and seafood festival in Hampton Roads and then to U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor's annual political gathering and a Hispanic diversity reception in Richmond. He also tailgated at the football game between rivals Norfolk State University and Hampton University in Norfolk.

He also picked up the endorsements of the Winchester Star and Harrisonburg Daily News-Record as well Norfolk City Councilman W. Randy Wright, an independent who usually endorses Democrats and backed Terry McAuliffe in the June Democratic primary.

By Anita Kumar  |  October 17, 2009; 3:30 PM ET
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , Anita Kumar , Creigh Deeds , Election 2009 , Robert F. McDonnell  
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