McCain, Palin fire up thousands at rally in Blaineby Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio
Blaine, Minn. — Republican presidential candidate John McCain and his running mate Sarah Palin greeted some 10,000 cheering supporters at a rally today in Blaine.
McCain told the crowd he believes he can win in Minnesota and win the presidential election.
McCain harshly criticized his Democratic opponent, Barack Obama, accusing him of taking large campaign contributions from both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
He also claimed the one-time head of Obama's vice presidential search team, Jim Johnson, had received a multimillion-dollar severance deal after stepping down as Fannie Mae CEO.
Johnson actually left the company 10 years ago, long before the current crisis.
McCain claimed Obama's policies would hurt the economy, and that a McCain adminstration would clean up the nation's financial problems.
"I will end the corrupt practices on Wall Street and the backroom deals in Washington D.C. I will hold acountable those responsible for the oversight and protection of consumers, taxpayers and homeowners," said McCain. "I will hold them accountable, my friends, and if that means that some people leave their cushy job, they should leave and leave now!"
To his audience, McCain summed up the choice 46 days out:
"Country first or Obama first."
Palin, who introduced McCain, was interrupted frequently with loud cheers and applause. Palin said she would head up energy independence in a McCain administration.
As the crowd chanted "drill, baby, drill," Palin criticized Obama for his stand on energy.
"What we need is American energy sources brought to you by American ingenuity, and produced by American workers!" Palin said.
Palin said she would help McCain expand the use of alternative fuels and nuclear energy, but that the Republicans would also push for more domestic oil drilling.
Obama says he would support some increased oil drilling as part of an overall energy plan, but he would stress renewable energy and alternative fuels.
Obama says he would not support new nuclear plants until the industry finds a safe way to dispose of nuclear waste.
The event, which was held in a hangar at the Anoka-Blaine airport, was free, but attendees had to have a ticket to enter. By 10 a.m., hundreds of drivers were lined up outside of the airport waiting to attend the rally.
Some of the cars had McCain/Palin bumper stickers. One had a Minnesota license plate that said "NHL MOM" a key demographic for Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, a self-proclaimed hockey mom.
A smattering of people wore hockey jerseys. It also fit with Minnesota's self-annointed reputation as "The State of Hockey."
One of the warmup speakers was University of Minnesota hockey coach Don Lucia. Palin's presence was a big draw for Katy Onstad, 25, of Andover.
"She has given this year a new energy," Onstad said. "It definitely jazzed up the whole McCain campaign."
Nathan Haase, 24, said Obama was his motivation for showing up -- his opposition to the Illinois senator, that is. Haase, of Maplewood, doubted Obama's readiness to hold the Oval Office.
"I don't want to spend the next four years getting to know who my president is. He just came out of the woodwork," Haase said. "It's a little too soon for a person we barely know."
That's the message Rick Wagner, 53, said McCain needs to drive home in the campaign stretch run.
"He needs to keep hammering on the fact that Obama doesn't have the experience to lead," Wagner said. "John McCain has clear solutions. He's got clear ideas. He's the real deal."
Minnesota First Lady Mary Pawlenty was MC of the event. Her husband, Gov. Tim Pawlenty, did not attend. He is in northern Minnesota attending the groundbreaking of a steel plant.
Pawlenty was considered a possible running mate to John McCain. A campaign spokesman said his absence from the McCain event is not a slight, and that Pawlenty fully backs McCain.
Minnesota supporters of Barack Obama held a counter-rally at the same time in downtown Minneapolis, and organizers say about 3,500 people attended.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)