Sen. John McCain was at the Cabarrus Arena & Events Center over the weekend rallying for his presidential campaign
By Josh Lanier
Sen. John McCain evoked “Joe the Plumber” several times Saturday at the Cabarrus Arena as he framed himself as the candidate who would help small business owners and compared the policies of his presidential rival to socialism.
The Arizona Republican came to Cabarrus County in his campaign against Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. McCain made the stop as polls suggest the race for North Carolina’s 15 electoral votes remains tight.
“We learned that Sen. Obama’s economic goal is, as he told Joe, to quote ‘spread the wealth around,’” McCain told supporters. “He believes in redistributing wealth, not in policies that grow our economy and create jobs and opportunities for all Americans.”
This was McCain’s second visit to the state this month. His running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, made two stops in the state this month, as well.
“The enthusiasm we are seeing here has been overwhelming and gives us the confidence we are going to win,” McCain said. He stressed the importance of the state in his bid for the White House.
Many of those in the crowd said they didn’t trust polls that show a tight race or an Obama lead in North Carolina.
“The people across the state know what they want, and they know John McCain is the only one that can give it to them,” Sharon Mobley of Concord said. “It hasn’t gone for a Democrat since Carter , and I’m sure it won’t go for them this year either.”
Rep. Patrick McHenry from North Carolina’s 10th District opened the event with a speech warning about liberal judges, Obama’s tax plans and erosions of second amendment rights.
McHenry estimated about 10,000 people in attendance, but Cabarrus Arena officials said the Events Center’s capacity was 6,000. Secret Service officers handling security estimated a more conservative 2,000 supporters were in attendance.
Republicans running for local offices milled through the crowd shaking hands and passing out cards during the earlier speeches.
Outside the arena, people bought “Clean Coal” hats and bumper stickers while waiting to get through tight security and metal detectors.
Robin Hayes, the incumbent in North Carolina’s 8th who is in a tight race with Larry Kissell, mocked Obama’s record and said that if Obama were elected the economy would worsen.
“The economy can be turned around overnight with leadership,” he said.
Hayes also acted as a referee to the crowd, saying that Republicans are the party of compassion and yelling obscene things wouldn’t be tolerated. Obama chided McCain in last week’s debate after supporters called Obama a “terrorist” and said “kill him” two weeks ago at a Palin rally. No one recalled hearing such cries at Saturday’s event.
McCain walked on event stage with his wife, Cindy McCain and Sen. Richard Burr (NC-R).
Cindy McCain introduced her husband and stressed his military record and their family’s military history.
“Between our families,” she said of the McCains and Palins, “we have three young men serving in the military … Only my husband can understand what it means to send young men into combat.”
Sen. Joe Biden, Obama’s running mate, has a son preparing for military deployment.
During the speech, supporters held up “Joe the Plummer” signs, wore McCain T-shirts and chanted “U-S-A” and “Mac is back” throughout the two-hour event.
On the way out of the event hall, one woman said she didn’t believe Obama would be able to carry the state because of the fiery support she witnessed inside.
“If Obama’s going to win,” she said, “we’re not going to make it easy.”
• Contact Josh Lanier: 704- 789-9144.