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McCain visit delights local Republicans
10/27/2008 By: Carole McWilliams
Homemade signs with reference to “Joe the Plumber” were much in evidence at Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s Oct. 24 rally in Durango.
They joined a sea of official blue “Country First” signs passed out to people as they filed in for what was apparently the first local appearance by a mainline presidential candidate since John F. Kennedy visited Durango in 1960.
The crowd filled most of the stands at the Durango High School football field (minus the section behind the platform set up for TV cameras), and filled the mid-section of the field.
The Durango Police Department estimated the crowd at more than 6,000. Supporters of Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama supporters held a counter rally along Main Avenue.
In mid-afternoon the line to get in to see McCain stretched from the north side of the high school, through the fairgrounds patio area to the parking lot, then west to Main Avenue, then back south to the high school stoplight.
It was around 4 p.m. when people really started streaming in. A KOBF reporter interviewed a man holding a homemade “Christians want McCain” sign.
Oxford area resident Bob Witt sported a National Rifle Association jacket and was featured in the the Saturday morning National Public Radio report of the rally.
One young woman in the stands had an Obama bumper sticker on the front of her shirt.
During the warm-up before McCain arrived, State Rep. Ellen Roberts of Durango announced her support for him and commended him for bringing women to the forefront of American politics with his choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.
Secret Service agents kept watch in their characteristic dark suits.
Eventually, the national news reporters who travel with the campaign filed in with their backpacks and laptops, suggesting the big event was getting close. The temporary power strips where they plugged in the laptops blew out at least once.
The grandstands and much of the field were in shadow and the field lights were on when McCain arrived from the airport in a group of black SUVs.
With him was wife Cindy and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. The crowd went wild.
The three made their way to the speaker’s platform. Cindy McCain addressed the crowd first, then Graham, introduced by Cindy McCain as her husband’s best friend.
Both Graham and John McCain got reliable boos from the crowd when they said Barack Obama wants to “spread the wealth.” McCain said he wants to “spread the opportunity.”
He asserted that Obama’s proposed tax increases would hit the middle class, not just the rich; and that Obama would raise taxes on people with incomes as low as $42,000.
He took individual note of the many signs with “Joe the Plumber” references.
At one point, McCain corrected himself from saying “If I’m elected” to “When I’m elected,” to the audience’s roar of approval.
He finished with a rousing declaration that he has always been a fighter, that he’ll continue to fight and never give up.
Then he waded down into the crowd packed around the speaker’s platform, to their great delight. He made about three passes through the crowd before the rally ended and people started filing out.
Main Avenue was jammed with traffic after the rally/ At the fairgrounds stoplight, a group of young people waved pirate flags and shouted at the departing McCain fans that Obama and McCain are the same, and neither one should get elected.
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