Local Politics

McCain: 'I'm not afraid of fight'

Making his first public visit to North Carolina in six months, Republican presidential candidate John McCain rallied a Wilmington crowd by saying "American is worth fighting for."

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WILMINGTON, N.C. — Republican presidential candidate John McCain said Monday that voters need to send him to the White House so he can hit the ground running in January and the country won't have to wait for its new president to get up to speed.

Making his first public visit to North Carolina in six months, McCain spoke to a packed auditorium of more than 2,000 people at Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington.

A WRAL News poll conducted last week showed North Carolina was a virtual dead heat between McCain and Democratic candidate Barack Obama, with Obama holding a slight 49 to 48 percent lead among self-described likely voters.

"Choose well," McCain told voters. "There's much at stake."

"The next president won't have time to get used to the office. He won't have the luxury of studying up on the issues before he acts," he said. "He will have to act immediately, and to do that, he will need experience, courage, judgment and a bold plan of action to take this country in a new direction."

McCain said he was prepared to work from his first day in office until his last to change the course of the nation, noting many politicians in recent years have been waiting for the country's luck to improve.

"I'm not afraid of the fight. I'm ready for it," he said.

McCain outlined portions of his plan to revive the struggling economy, including tax cuts for individuals and small-business owners to spur income and job growth, government purchases of faulty mortgages to restore home values and allowing people to keep money in their retirement accounts longer to rebuild their wealth.

"I'm going to make sure we take care of the people who were devastated by the excesses of Wall Street and Washington," he said.

He vowed to freeze most government spending and "scrub every government program" to ensure they were worth continued funding. He also said he would veto all spending bills that contained earmarks for special projects.

"I'm going to make government live on a budget just like you do," he said to a standing ovation.

McCain also described his health care plan, saying he would allow competition to rein in costs instead of using Obama's centralized system to force people into a single plan. He also called for increased foreign trade and immediate expansion of domestic energy reserves.

"Do you know how much of the nuclear (reactor) equipment and parts for the future of our nuclear power if made right here in North Carolina? One hundred percent," he said to cheers, referring to the Wilmington operations of GE-Hitachi Nuclear.

He ended his 20-minute speech by urging people not to listen to the polls – the crowd booed when he said the national media had written him off – and to stand up and fight for the nation's future.

"Don't give up hope, be strong, have courage and fight," he said. "Fight for a new direction for our country. Fight for what's right in America. Fight to clean up the mess of corruption, in-fighting and selfishness in Washington. Fight to get our economy out of the ditch and back in the lead.

"Stand up to defend our country from its enemies. Stand up, stand up, stand up and fight," he said. "America is worth fighting for."

The event was initially billed as a town-hall meeting, but McCain left after making his speech and shaking some hands and signing a few autographs.

"I was a little disappointed," Tammy Covil said afterward. "I would have liked to see some questions asked by some of the people here."

Obama has outspent McCain in North Carolina by an 8-to-1 margin in recent weeks as he tries to convert the traditionally Republican state to his side.

McCain campaign spokesman Buzz Jacobs insisted Monday that the GOP wasn't taking the state for granted.

"North Carolina was always going to be a place we had to do battle, so to speak, and here we are," Jacobs said.

Republican supporters said they were confident McCain will win the state on Nov. 4.

"We're in a little bit of trouble, but I know we'll be a red state again," Kelly Landgraf said, referring to the color of Republican states on political maps.


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