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At Rally in Prince William, McCain Acknowledges Uphill Fight for Virginia

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The Republican candidate criticizes Barack Obama's tax proposals amid concerns he might lose Virginia. Video by Ed O'Keefe/washingtonpost.com

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By Christopher Twarowski
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 19, 2008

Thousands of supporters rallied at an outdoor pavilion in Woodbridge yesterday for Republican presidential candidate John McCain in an event aimed at energizing and attracting voters in a battleground state.

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The Arizona senator, entering the Sean T. Connaughton Community Plaza at the Prince William County complex to the "Rocky" theme song, came out swinging, delivering a speech critical of his opponent, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). McCain began by mentioning a familiar name from last week's presidential debate: Joe the plumber.

"This is a must-win state," McCain said. "Joe's dream is so many Americans' dreams, to all own a small business that will create jobs in his community. And the attacks on him are an attack on small businesses all over this country."

His words resonated with the partisan crowd, estimated at 8,000 to 10,000. Preston Smith, a 40-year-old African American contractor for the Defense Department from Manassas, said he came to the rally because "I feel like John McCain has the better tax policy and defense policy."

Prince William has been a focus of both presidential campaigns this year, county board Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large) said last week. It was here that Obama held his first campaign rally after winning the nomination, seeing in Prince William a symbol of Virginia's political progress.

Obama's running mate, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), joked that he had "almost been in Virginia enough to earn residency" when he headlined a community gathering in Woodbridge last month.

"The fact that McCain is coming now, at such a late stage in the campaign, is an important indication of how important this county is to McCain," Stewart said. "Prince William is now recognized as the battleground county in a swing state."

The "Road to Victory" rally was the second campaign stop by McCain in Virginia in less than a week, and 13 electoral votes are at stake. He is behind in the polls and looking for ways to drum up support in the region.

"We have 17 days to go," McCain said. "We're down six points."

"We learned that Senator Obama's economic goal, as he told Joe, is to 'spread the wealth around,' " McCain said to a chorus of boos. "He believes in redistributing wealth, not in policies that grow our economy and create jobs and opportunities for all Americans.

"Since you can't reduce taxes on those who pay zero, the government will write them all checks called a tax credit and the Treasury will have to cover those checks by taxing other people -- you!" said McCain, again to boos. "In other words, Barack Obama's plan to raise taxes on some, in order to give checks to others, isn't a tax cut, it's just another government giveaway."

John Robinson, 45, of Montgomery County carried daughter Victoria, 5, on his shoulders. He, too, cited McCain's tax policy as a reason for supporting the Republican. "Our country is at a turning point," Robinson said. "I really support John McCain and keeping the money that I earned, for ourselves."

McCain supporters held signs praising the candidate's experience and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, and frequently erupted into chants ranging from "Drill, baby, drill!" to "Nobama!" during the afternoon event. Many wore red. The rally also included remarks from 11th District GOP candidate Keith Fimian, former Virginia governor James S. Gilmore III, running for U.S. Senate, and state Delegate Chris Waxman.

Retirees Janet Ferris, 68, of Woodbridge, wearing red and carrying a U.S. flag, and her husband Tom, 69, said they came to the rally to show their support and because of their views on abortion. They say that it is an issue on which they agree with McCain and Palin.

"Her beliefs are my beliefs," Janet Ferris said.


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