I was at McCain's Town Hall in Albuquerque (Updated)
by fbihop, Tue Jul 15, 2008 at 01:30:16 PM EDT
Update: Also see the protest photoblog. Obviously I was not able to attend; and my camera broke anyway. I bought the camera less than 24 hours ago.
John McCain came to Albuquerque today for a town hall meeting with five hundred supporters. The crowd began filtering in at 8:45 am for the 10:15 am scheduled start; the event actually started on time.
The schedule handed out to the press said McCain's state finance chair Ken Zangara was slated to start the event, but it turned out that former state Speaker of the House Manuel Lujan gave the introduction instead.
McCain spoke for about fifteen minutes about... well, you know his talking points by now. He hit many throughout the opening remarks and by the end of the town hall with the slow-pitch softball questions, he probably hit just about every talking point from his campaign. From more drilling to nuclear power to "Barack Obama is going to raise taxes", it was a John McCain greatest hits collection.
McCain barely touched on the purported reason for the Town Hall Meeting in Albuquerque: jobs. And something about prosperity and peace, both things in short supply under the current Republican administration.
But the event wasn't without highlights; notably a flip flop on Afghanistan by McCain. The Huffington Post had more:
But by moving up his planned Afghanistan speech by two days to follow Obama's, and by agreeing that more U.S. troops are needed there, McCain appears to be following the Illinois Democrat on a major proposed shift for U.S. foreign policy.McCain spent a good chunk of his prepared remarks talking about how the surge in Iraq has been successful. How Obama wants to cut and run (though he never used those exact words) and how Obama isn't tough enough to be President.
It felt like 2004 all over again. Only with McCain starring as George W Bush on the campaign trail.
But McCain wanted people to know that he was ready to win in Afghanistan -- that we need a "surge" in Afghanistan. He never said where those extra troops would come from, however. Maybe it's like with his budget, where he says "once we win Iraq, we'll have the numbers/money to do it." But there's no plan to winning in Iraq for McCain or Bush.
As Barack Obama said in his speech on Iraq, "George Bush and John McCain don't have a strategy for success in Iraq - they have a strategy for staying in Iraq."
One asked about the estate tax. McCain noted how the estate tax moratorium will end soon and he joked how there will be a bunch of suspicious deaths before then... and everyone laughed. Granted, this is a joke that, say, Dave Chappelle might be able to pull off, but Chappelle is a stand up comedian, not a Presidential candidate.
Two elementary school-aged children got to ask questions. While it is a cute thing, it doesn't exactly help voters make up their minds; but that's not what Town Hall meetings are about for McCain. They are instead about rallying the troops.
Something that caught my eye was who was in attendance and who wasn't. Steve Pearce showed up early and shook hands with just about everyone in the crowd (left); he even got to speak a few words with McCain in front of the cameras. But no sign of Heather Wilson; no sign of Darren White or Ed Tinsley. And no sign of Pete Domenici.
I wouldn't know Dan East if he had a sandwich board that said, "Hi, I'm Dan East," so he may have been in attendance and I just didn't notice. But not exactly stellar representation from the Republican members of Congress in support of their Presidential candidate.
The crowd was nothing like the crowd for Barack Obama's event in February at the Kiva Auditorium (where more than 4,000 people showed up). When it looked like McCain was about to come out, there wasn't a huge cheer, there wasn't a chant of "McCain! McCain!" until McCain strolls out.
There was silence. Well, people were whispering. While one dignitary from the backstage area walked out, he said, "Well it certainly is quiet here," and a nervous laughter rocked the room. One of the members of press row said, "You can tell this is a Republican event."
Did someone say "enthusiasm gap?"
But it may have been a function of the crowd's demographics. Most of the crowd were middle-aged and older individuals. Most were white, but about 10 percent of the crowd were Hispanic, in a state where nearly 50 percent of the population is Hispanic.
This is McCain's strongest venue, and he excelled at it in front of a partisan crowd that was in support of him; lucky for him, there was no teleprompter in sight.