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    Campaigning close to home


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    Sen. John McCain’s Straight Talk Express passed through the First Coast Sept. 15 for a campaign rally at the Veteran’s Memorial Arena.

    The event was originally scheduled to take place at the Jacksonville Fairgrounds but was rescheduled during the weekend to accommodate the overwhelming demand for tickets.

    The original venue could only support 2,000 people.

    Venue staffers estimated there were approximately 4,000 in attendance at the arena, only a quarter of its capacity.

    Fifty-Five UNF College Republicans’ participated in McCain’s rally by waving “Ospreys for McCain” and “Read My Lipstick” signs, and 12 students, including Student Body President John Barnes, were selected to paint the letters M-c-C-A-I-N-*-P-A-L-I-N across their chests.

    “We are in an historic election season, and it was a great experience,” Barnes said. “I encourage political participation, regardless of party affiliation. [Vice President Mike Saathoff] and I do not always see eye-to-eye.”

    “But we work together for the best interest of the student body, regardless of who we individually support,” Barnes said.

    Although she was not there, Sarah Palin garnered much vocal support from the audience, chanting “McCain, Palin” and “Sarah, Palin.”

    McCain took the stage to Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” and enthusiastic supporters chanting “Country, First” and “McCain, Palin.”

    McCain began with the importance of winning battleground states like Florida, Ohio and Michigan.

    “We must and will win the state of Florida in the upcoming election,” McCain said.

    McCain also commented on the tumultuous state of Wall Street and the bust of Lehman Brothers.

    “I believe the fundamentals of our economy are strong, but these are very, very difficult times, so I promise you: We will never put America in this position again,” McCain said. “We will clean up Wall Street.”

    “The McCain-Palin administration will replace an outdated, patchwork quilt of regulatory oversight and bring transparency and accountability to Wall Street,” he added. “We will have transparency and accountability, and we will reform the regulatory bodies of government.”

    He touched upon several issues close to fiscal conservatives: lower inflation, low taxes and access to international markets and attacked Sen. Barack Obama’s position on free trade, stating, “Obama will not even agree to have a vote on free trade with Colombia.”

    McCain also attacked Obama’s position on earmarks, stating Obama sought $932 million dollars since his election, or approximately $1 million per day, since he took office.

    McCain renewed his pledge to fight earmarks and veto any bill containing them and will publicize any that came across his desk, stating, “earmarks breed corruption.”

    Concerning energy independence, America must stop sending $700 billion a year overseas to dictators and enemies of America, he said.

    McCain was promptly greeted with thunderous applause from supporters while chanting “drill offshore.”

    Agreeing, McCain said America must also develop alternative energy solutions such as wind, solar, hydro-electric and nuclear energy.

    In his closing remarks, McCain talked about the perilous times America is facing and promised to keep fighting the global war on terror. He also commented on the renewed Russian threat and the threat to Israel if Iran continues its nuclear program.

    He once again said Obama would need “on-the-job training,” and “the presidency is not a job for on-the-job training.”

    “I do not need any on-the-job training, and I know how to work with our friends and deal with our enemies,” McCain said.

    He also brought up his ties to the First Coast, as he served at the Cecil Air Field during the mid-1960s.

    McCain thanked the citizens of Orange Park for taking care of his family while he was a prisoner of war.

    “My children had about 50,000 parents while I was in prison,” he said.

    Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton, a McCain supporter, also touched upon this issue during his opening remarks.

    “We will show [McCain] this town still remembers him,” Peyton said.

    E-mail Jonathan Morales and James Cannon at [email protected].

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