State News

Casual Palin says Obama already cutting down nets

Posted October 26, 2008 5:41 p.m. EDT
Updated October 27, 2008 10:23 a.m. EDT

— Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin brought some casual appeal to Asheville on Sunday night, wearing jeans and singing "Redneck Woman" as she implored voters to hire the ticket to fix the nation's capital.

While the Alaska governor said the election was going down to the wire, she said Democratic presidential rival Barack Obama has been acting as if he's already won.

"Barack Obama and I both have spent quite some time on the basketball court," Palin told a raucous crowd of several thousand at the Asheville Civic Center, 87 Haywood St. "But where I come from, you have to win the game before you start cutting down the nets."

Palin said the GOP ticket isn't assuming that it has voters' support, and is respectfully asking those in North Carolina to support her and running mate John McCain.

"We believe the virtues of freedom are worth fighting for," Palin told the crowd. "And we believe the best of America is not all gathered in Washington, D.C. It is here, it is in the kindness, and the goodness and the courage of everyday, hardworking Americans."

Among her criticisms, which she also aired during rallies in Florida earlier in the day: She said Obama already has an inaugural address to give.

Obama's campaign said it isn't so. Spokesman Bill Burton said the accusation comes from a report that White House chief of staff John D. Podesta had written a draft inaugural speech for Obama and included it in a recent book. Burton said Podesta wrote it as a sample address, not for Obama but for whoever became the nominee.

Palin came dressed in jeans and a black blouse, to appeal to the rural conservatives in western North Carolina's mountains. She has been battling criticism after revelations that the Republican National Committee purchased $150,000 in clothes and accessories for her.

Palin said in Florida that the fancy wardrobe doesn't belong to her.

But the jeans fit her message in North Carolina's mountains. Before giving the crowd her full speech, she asked country artist Gretchen Wilson to sing her song, "Redneck Woman." On stage, Palin sang along – though not into a microphone – and clapped her hands.

"I am a little nervous about it (the election). But being a small business owner, of course, we are watching our pennies. And we don't want to spread that wealth unless those people are working hard for it," Palin supporter Gretchens Rivers said.

"I am just very worried about Obama getting in there (the White House). What is going to happen to small business owners, such as myself," Palin supporter Palin supporter Will Rivers said.

Palin tried to reassure the small business owners in the audience.

"We will bring tax relief to every American and every business. Because small businesses, you here who own small businesses or work for one in North Carolina, you are the backbone of the state's economy," she said.

Palin also called her mother on a cell phone and led the crowd in singing "Happy Birthday."

"You are such a welcoming, unique and fun and patriotic state," Palin said. "I love you guys."

But not everyone was loving her back. Before the event, Obama supporters clashed with a Palin crowd. The faceoff along a downtown road included loud arguments, vulgar signs and heated chants. Authorities stood between the crowds, although a couple of arguments turned into minor shoving.

A few protesters were also shown the door while Palin was on stage.

Palin's speech kicked off a wild and historic week of campaigning across North Carolina that will put all four major candidates on the trail in the state.

All the events indicate the urgency of winning North Carolina and its 15 electoral votes. Palin will be followed by her Democratic counterpart, Joe Biden, on Monday. He has two scheduled campaign stops just a few days after finishing a three-city bus tour of the state.

The two presidential hopefuls have also scheduled events of their own. Republican John McCain will be in Fayetteville on Tuesday. Democrat Barack Obama will come on Wednesday to a yet-to-be-determined location. His wife, Michelle, will hold a separate event in the state.

The heavy focus on North Carolina in the final days of the race indicates just how valuable the state is as the election approaches and polls narrow. North Carolina hasn't voted for a Democrat since 1976, but Obama has moved the polls with a heavy investment in the state and the aid of changing demographics and a large bloc of black voters.

Both parties have focused on getting supporters to the polls before Election Day. Early voting began Oct. 16, and already more than 1 million voters have cast a ballot at one-stop sites.