McCain, Palin draw large crowd in battleground of Virginia
FAIRFAX, Va. – It was Republican John McCain’s turn on Wednesday to relish the kind rock-star treatment usually associated with his Democratic rival, Barack Obama, in the tightening race for the White House.
Under burning sunshine at a park in a suburb outside Washington, D.C., McCain and his newly minted running-mate Sarah Palin drew a crowd of approximately 23,000, which his campaign said was his biggest on the presidential trail.
Campaigns are notorious for inflating crowd estimates. But a McCain’s aide stressed the number was the real thing — provided by a fire marshal no less.
It could very well be accurate. Supporters by the thousands poured onto the grassy slopes of Fairfax’s Van Dyke Park waving blue and yellow McCain-Palin placards and chanting slogans (“Sarah, Sarah, Sarah” ranks among the loudest). Some chastised the media for “picking on” Palin.
The pair did not diverge from speeches they’ve delivered all week, almost to a word, threading a folksy narrative of their lives with the bread-and-butter assertions of their campaign: the Iraq war can be won, drilling for oil in the United States to secure energy independence and that their ticket would bring reform to Washington.
Much of the crowd was a sea of red shirts, courtesy of the Virginia Republican Party, which exhorted on its Web site for supporters to wear red, the party’s color, to keep the battleground state Republican.
After backing President George W, Bush in the 2000 and 2004 elections, Virginia is now a swing state, according to an average of statewide polls by Real Clear Politics which has McCain up a slender 0.7 percent in the state.
The growing turnout at McCain’s events has followed his surprise pick of the little-known Alaska governor as his vice-presidential nominee. Attesting to her draw, one supporter shouted her name holding aloft a sign that read “Palin power”.
– Photo credit: Reuters/Jason Reed