The excitement was palpable at Van Dyke Park in Fairfax, Virginia this morning at a rally held by Republican Presidential and Vice Presidential Nominees John McCain and Sarah Palin. “I look forward to seeing the environment here because Northern Virginia is primarily always Democrat. It made me excited to know I’m not one of [only] 20 Republicans up in here,” said junior George Mason University student Chris Brooks.
Today, a lot more than 20 Republicans showed up. According to McCain’s campaign there were 23,000 people in attendance but according to security, 25,0000 came. Either of these counts more than doubles the population of the City of Fairfax. “[This is] the largest turnout for Senator McCain so far on the campaign route,” said Rob Lederer, Mayor of Fairfax City.
McCain’s campaign took advantage of the large crowd and distributed names and phone numbers of potential voters. During the rally Orson Swindle, who was a prisoner of war at Hanoi Hilton with McCain, directed the crowd to participate in a mass phone bank by calling their assigned potential voters during the rally and campaigning on behalf of the McCain/Palin ticket.
The rally continued with former Senator Fred Thompson, who accused Democratic Presidential Nominee Barack Obama of thinking that “running for president is a qualification to be president.”
When McCain and Palin arrived on stage with their spouses, the response from the crowd was overwhelming. “I am honored to be considered on this team of mavericks,” said Palin, whose speech heavily accentuated her success and experience as governor of Alaska and mayor of Wasilla, Alaska. She stressed her fiscal leadership by highlighting her state’s budget surplus. “We gave that money back to hard working Alaskans and in these tough times, I’m ready to join John McCain in Washington and we’re going to do the same thing: tax relief for all Americans.”
“I championed earmark reform also,” said Palin, referring to the practice of directing specific amounts of money to specific projects within Federal agencies. “While our opponent [Obama] was requesting a billion dollars in earmarks as a senatorial privilege, what I was doing was vetoing half a billion as an executive responsibility.”
Palin also underscored the need for innovative energy options. “We are going to make this nation energy independent,” she said. “We need American resources brought to you by American ingenuity and produced by American workers.”
As Palin introduced McCain, who had been standing by her side during her speech, the crowd erupted in applause and cheers. “Thank you all of Northern Virginia,” responded McCain. “My friends, the Commonwealth of Virginia is a battleground state, we must win it and we will win it with your support.”
Taking Obama’s theme of change, McCain said, “Let me offer an advance warning to the old, big spending, do nothing – me first, country second, Washington crowd: change is coming, change is coming and it’s coming to our nation’s capital.”
“That’s what this campaign is all about: change and reform.”
Like Palin, McCain addressed the need for a new energy plan and criticized the government takeover yesterday of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. “We need to keep people in their homes but we can’t allow this to turn into a bailout of Wall Street speculators and irresponsible executives.”
“All you’ve ever asked of the government is for it to stand by your side and not in your way. That’s just what I intend to do.”
McCain hit Obama hard on his lack of experience with national security and ended his speech by saying “I want to be president of the United States because I know I can inspire a generation of Americans to serve a cause greater than their self interest and themselves…I’ve always put my country first and my friends you can count on that.”
“I thought it went really well. He made a lot of points that I completely agree with,” said Woodard.
“I really enjoyed it. I found it really inspiring…I found myself crying,” said Mason alumna Kristell Forensca. “I think [Palin] is incredible. As soon as she walked out on stage, I started tearing … it’s so inspiring because she is a woman…having her as a candidate is just an amazing accomplishment.”
Not everyone was as inspired as Foresnca however. According to security at the event, approximately 100 protestors were present. Heated exchanges occurred between supporters of the rival candidates before, during and after the rally. There were media reports of a number of protest groups at the event including the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, Greenpeace and Code Pink.
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So much for asking the flocking crowds about their candidates’ dubious records…