GOP White House hopefuls visit Columbus; Crowd goes wild in support

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John McCain speaks at the gymnasium on the Capital University campus in Bexley. He is flanked by Gov. Sarah Palin and his wife, Cindy.(Photo: Mandie Trimble, WOSU News Reporter)
John McCain speaks at the gymnasium on the Capital University campus in Bexley. He is flanked by Gov. Sarah Palin and his wife, Cindy.(Photo: Mandie Trimble, WOSU News Reporter)

GOP presidential candidate John McCain and vice presidential running mate Governor Sarah Palin visited Columbus for a rally at Capital University in Bexley. This was Palin’s first time she has stopped in Columbus. The campaign says 9,000 people attended.

Governor Sarah Palin encouraged the crowd to vote early, and to register to vote if they have not yet done so. She acknowledged this election will not be won by a landslide, and said the republican campaign is counting on Ohio voters.

“Please don’t sit this year out, guys. We need it. We need it this year. It’s going to be a close, hard-fought election, and we need your help to win the Buckeye state in ’08,” Palin said.

Palin looked ahead to this week’s debate between the vice presidential candidates.

“So I guess it’s my turn now. And I do look forward to Thrusday nght and debating Senator Joe Biden. (cheering from crowd) We’re going to talk about those new ideas, new energy for America. I’m looking forward to meeting him, too. I’ve never met him before. But I’ve been hearing about his Senate speeches since I was in, like, second grade,” she said.

Palin touched on the U.S. energy crisis. She said the coal reserves in the U.S. are greater than the oil in the Middle East, and said Senator Joe Biden has refused to use clean coal as an energy option to which the crowd let out a huge boo.

“(Boo) As for Senator McCain and I, we will make clean coal a reality and to help power the American economy with clean coal technology we’re going to look to the hard-working people of Ohio to help us do that,” Palin said.

McCain focused on the economy and his leadership skills. And he criticized Senator Barack Obama for, in McCain’s opinion, not taking a more hands-on approach to the economic bailout attempt. Last week McCain temporarily suspended his campaign.

“At first he didn’t want to get involved. Then he was ‘monitoring the situation.’ That’s not leadership, that’s watching from the sidelines,” McCain said.

McCain said he will offer tax cuts to low and middle income Americans and support for small businesses which he called the backbone of the U.S. economy.

“My commitment to the American people is this: I will clean up the Wall Street mess, reform Washington (D.C.) and focus the entire Federal Government on a pro-growth agenda that creates jobs,” McCain said.

The crowd appeared to approve of McCain’s speech which lasted 16 minutes. Kim Agosta of Lancaster said McCain’s character is hard to beat.

“He is such a stand up person. We just couldn’t have a greater leader for our country. Someone who’s proven himself to fight for our country,” Agosta said.

Loren Loving of Columbus said she became deeply concerned about election after she watched the presidential debate on Friday.

“I’m frightened that the most powerful position in the world is being considered by someone with so little experience. That scared me. And I came away from observing the debates feeling more secure with John (McCain) because of his experience,” Loving said.

Felix Huertas, an Hispanic and a veteran, said he always promised himself if McCain ran he would vote for him.

“The whole country’s falling apart and we need somebody to straighten it out. You know, our infrastructure is down. Our politicians are easily bought, our institutions are in decay and I think he’s the man to do it for us,” Huertas.

But not everyone who showed up at Capital University was a McCain – Palin supporter. Before the rally started about several dozen protesters from different groups stood outside the gym chanting…

“More of the same, Bush-McCain, more of the same.”

Kyle Davis of Columbus said he does not think McCain has the answer to the nation’s economic crisis.

“It’s really hard to pay for college right now. And trying to get jobs is really, really hard,” Davis said.

Teresa McHugh with the Sierra Club of Ohio said the group is concerned about the future of the country’s energy. She said it’s essential to prevent global warming and secure U.S. jobs.

“John McCain has not provided the leadership we need on energy issues,” McHugh said.

James Pierson from Massachusetts with the Obama campaign was not necessarily protesting Senator McCain.

“We’re tyring to make a change here in this country. We need a change. But we’re just here to support Obama, and see what’s happening with the McCain campaign. We’re just here. We’re just looking,” Pierson said.