by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
August 10, 2008
GOODBYE, NORMA JEAN
AURORA, Colo., July 30, 2008 -- Presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain brought his trademark humor and down-home charm to Colorado for the second time in a week today, seeking to shore up support in this "battleground state."
The Arizona Senator continued to gain ground on his Democratic rival, Illinois Senator Barack Obama, but admitted "we still have a lot of work to do."
McCain spoke to about 450 almost entirely white, blue-collar workers at Wagner Equipment Co. in the Denver suburb of Aurora, Colo., Wednesday, with a cotillion of huge, American-made, Caterpillar equipment flanking him and his poised and demure wife Cindy.
"He looks older in person," one young man opined. The teenager was nonethless impressed with McCain's winning personality.
The backhoes and front-end loaders, the tires taller than the men and women draped over them, lent a solid, if "Transformer"-esque, feeling to the cavernous hangar-size venue. The heightened security around the candidate was a palpable presence.
Additional personnel, bomb-sniffing dogs and checkpoints with metal detectors were not in place a scant two months ago when McCain brought his "Town Hall Meeting" to Denver. When asked by The American Reporter to guess at the reason, one security person smiled and said "he's gotten bigger."
His message is more centered than last time as well. His claims like "I want to look you in the eye and tell you I will not raise your taxes or support any tax increase. I will not do this," or "It's (Washington) wrong and I'll fix it and I know how to fix it," got the most cheers from the Wagner employees. Health care, the topic of the May event, never came up.
McCain touched on the things these hard-working folks wanted to hear about - the lackluster economy, job displacement, the cost of oil - and he even answered a Democrat's question when she challenged him to come up with an answer for families facing a "food or fuel" crisis in their lives.
"How are you going to help us?" asked the woman, who prefaced her remarks with the disclaimer that she is a Democrat, but "I'm not going to vote that way."
"Can I tell you that I can give you some relief tomorrow?" he intoned. "I have to give you some straight talk. It's going to be very, very hard. It's gong to be tough on Americans."
He probably didn't have to remind this crowd that "these are tough times, my friends," but McCain confidently launched into his list of fixes, ranging from 45 new nuclear power plants by 2030, to a $5000 tax credit for a General Motors Volt, so "Americans don't have to drive these gas guzzlers," with a gas tax holiday thrown in for good measure, although he admitted in the same breath that it was a was a small, symbolic gesture.
His exhortation to "unleash the power, the innovation, and the technology of America," and was greeted with an embarrassing silence. "I call it the Lexington Project," McCain said.
"We can achieve it (energy independence), but we cannot wait. We can achieve it with off-shore drilling, removing ethanol subsidies and clean coal technology, with the nuclear plants that will create 700,00 new jobs."
McCain landed in Denver late Tuesday evening to attend a private fundraiser at multi-millionaire Charlie Gallagher's home in Englewood, where the minimum entrance fee was reportedly $80,000. He is currently lagging the presumptive Democratic nominee Obama by about 2 to I in raising money in Colorado. He warned the crowd Wednesday "I have to win here if I'm going to be the next President of the United States."
He showed no sign of being an underdog at the Wagner Training Institute building, however, his quick wit and easy manner quickly winning over the already awe-stricken crowd. Beautiful wife Cindy, millionaire and business owner herself, didn't hurt him either, comparing his dedication to his country, "serving a cause greater than his own self interest," to the fervor of the women in Rwanda where she sponsored a humanitarian mission.
McCain spoke directly to owner Joe Wagner's plea for help for American small businesses' "deep problem," by promising to bring back high-paying jobs to American workers through education. "We need to set up education and training programs for displaced workers. We can't leave people behind. The best way we can help these workers who have lost their jobs and are in danger of losing their homes is to get them a quality, high paying job so they can enjoy the quality of life like we have here at Wagner Equipment."
Greg Esposito, main shop coordinator and an eleven year Wagner employee, was excited at the prospect of listening to his eventual presidential pick. "I like to observe until it's time to vote." Esposito said he would vote for McCain "because I think he would make a better President," but he added that it was more of an emotional decision.
Ron Willard, a Wagner project manager, was more circumspect. "I'm still undecided. It's been a great election so far. We have two candidates who can really get people fired up and there's a lot of big issues on the table. But I'm still waiting to see how it finally shakes out."
Asked what would shake him loose, Willard pointed to the overriding concern of most of the rest of the country - the economy.
"If I heard something that was really going to help the economy, that would be it," he said. "You hear a lot of rhetoric about what they're going to do, but I'm not convinced that anything is going to really turn things around right now."
With Cindy McCain's remarks about empowered women and the 22 year Arizona Senator's vow to "change the way Washington does business'" the campaign started sounding more like his opponent's, but McCain quickly distanced himself from the Obama camp. He complimented Obama as an "impressive speaker, whose words have attracted many people," but accused him of the notorious flip-flop move.
"On issues big and small, what he says and what he does are often two different things. What he doesn't understand is that the policies he offers will make things worse and not better. Senator Obama says he is going to change Washington but his solution is to make government bigger and raise your taxes to pay for it."
"In the few years he has been in the Senate, he has requested millions of dollars of pork-barrel spending," McCain claimed, citing one of his campaign mainstays.
McCain explained his commitment to avoiding special interests. "I understand who I really work for. I work for you and the country we love. I answer to you."
Did McCain convince Willard today? "Maybe just a smidgen," Willard confessed.
Thus are major campaigns fought and won or lost - by the smidgen.