About 5,000 Republican ticket supporters gathered at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds Saturday to cheer on vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin during her first Raleigh visit.
Several speakers preceded Palin, including former Sen. Bob Dole, Sen. Richard Burr and Mike, the plumber, from Cary.
After Palin came on, she discussed issues ranging from the economy, to taxes, to the two wars "we are winning," in addition to criticizing Sen. Barack Obama's plans.
The crowd was ecstatic over Palin, cheering or booing after almost every sentence she spoke and often drowning her out.
This excitement came event after a long wait.
Most of the attendees arrived around 4 p.m. and crowded into the Exhibition Centers' floor, where they would stand until after 8 p.m. when the event closed.
An EMS crew moved at least two of the older members of the crowd outside after they became exhausted in the hot room.
But still, the pom-poms and American flags campaign volunteers distributed were put to good use, waving frequently and forcefully as the crowd celebrated its star.
'Victory'(UWIRE) -- Palin's son Track is stationed in Iraq with the U.S. Army, and Palin said she would be more confident having John McCain as a commander in chief.
"We need someone who talks about the wars America's fighting and isn't afraid to use the word 'victory,'" she said.
Obama's policies can "fill a stadium but they cannot keep our country safe," Palin said.
"John McCain has always put his country first."
She accused the Democrats of wanting to "wave the white flag of defeat" to terrorists.
'Drill, baby, drill!'(UWIRE) -- Energy independence would be key in a McCain administration, according to Palin, and it would emphasize clean coal technology.
Campaign volunteers distributed hats with 'Clean Coal' emblems to members of the audience, and many sported them during the speech.
"There is more coal in this free country than there is oil in Saudi Arabia," Palin said.
American should use the safest methods to "drill here and drill now," using more American-drilled oil, she said.
The crowd eruped in a 'drill, baby, drill' chant during her speech.
Obama's tax plan would 'decimate'(UWIRE) -- After quickly introducing her husband Todd, Palin began speaking on tax policy and the harm Obama's would cause.
"Only John McCain has the wisdom and experience to get our economy on the right track," she said.
A McCain administration would "clean up the corruption on Wall Street," "shake things up in Washington" and help make college more affordable, Palin said.
She promised a balanced budget by the end of McCain's first term, and proposed a spending freeze to help stabilize the economy.
Referencing Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's tax plans, she accused him of wanting to spread citizens' wealth.
"Sen. Obama has an ideological commitment to higher taxes," she said.
McCain would cut taxes for all, she said, and intensely cut government spending.
"Barack Obama is for bigger government," she said.
The Obama tax plan promises tax cuts for all who make less than $250,000 a year, but Palin said the Obama campaign's definition of middle class continues to decrease.
Representatives have referenced a cut-off.
Focus on family(UWIRE) -- Saturday's crowd may have been older than those at Obama rallies, but it was also more family-focused.
Palin has five children, from her 18-year-old son Track to her newborn Trig, and a quick scan of the Exhibition Center showed a lot of families with young children.
Some parents propped their kids on their shoulders during her speech, while others let their young ones sit on the floor with coloring books, with the youngest in strollers.
Robert Worthington, a Raleigh resident and campaign volunteer, said the Palin family's visibility is a big draw for families who come to events.
Diane Predatte, a woman who came with her family from Benson, said she was more moved by McCain after he added a "conservative woman" to the ticket.
"She believes in everything we believe in," Predatte said.
After speaking on the economy and energy policy, Palin moved to the topic of special-needs children.
"These children are not a problem, they are a priority," she said.
Palin did not mention her own Trig, who was born with Down syndrome this year, but she transitioned into her stance on abortion.
Americans need a government in which "every innocent life counts," she said.
Worthington said her staunch position against abortion was why she was voting for the Republicans this year.
"I've been a Christian for 50-some years and cannot stand to vote for someone who is pro-choice," he said.
Tuning into Palin(UWIRE) -- The music at Saturday's rally set a tone for the event, with live bluegrass bands providing a background for hours before Palin arrived.
As her entrance drew nearer, there were some crowd sing-a-longs, including "God Bless America," and "I'm Proud to be an American."
The underdog "Rocky" theme "Gonna Fly Now" played as well, and when the lights went out before Palin got on stage, Brooks and Dunn's "Only in America" blared.
Palin's choice for entrance and exit music seemed to accentuate her folksiness, and may have been a play to the audience.
The song, Gretchen Wilson's "Redneck Woman," got some response from the crowd, with women chanting along at times and waving their pom-poms.
Some lines from the song:
"I ain't no high class broad,
I'm just a product of my raising
and I say 'hey y'all' and 'yeehaw'
I keep my Christmas lights on my front porch all year long"
"No I don't need no designer tag to make my man want me"
Sights and Sounds(UWIRE) -- Pink and Navy T-shirts
Attendees of the rally clamored for T-shirts thrown from the stage. Both men and women loudly called for shirts but were disappointed when they realized the shirts were blank.
Several McCain supporters were seen wearing white baseball caps with the words "Clean Coal" printed on them. The hat-wearers said the caps were free giveaways from the GOP but did not know what "Clean Coal" actually meant. The "Clean Coal" initiative is a plan to reduce the nation's dependence on foreign energy by increasing the use of American-mined coal.
When Cary-area plumber "Mike" made his appearance at the rally to show his support for John McCain, some voices in the crowd called for him to "take his shirt off." Mike refrained from stripping, but did rally the crowd to a frenzy just before Bob Dole took the stage.
Average Joes for McCain
Many supporters wore bumper stickers an held signs which paid homage to Joe the Plumber. Among them were signs saying that Obama would take Joe's plunger away as well as a bumper sticker that said "I'm voting for Joe the Plumber."
Aaron Dancy, North Carolina State University freshman in mechanical engineering(UWIRE) -- "Having a presence in the state does help... trying to keep the volunteers like myself motivated [and know] we still have a chance."
"Mike, the plumber, did a great job really pushing what the McCain-Palin campaign has been trying to push the last couple of week."
"One of the themes that came out of it was hard work versus a welfare handout mentality, which Mike, the plumber, re-inforced."
Ches McDowell, sophomore in political science(UWIRE) -- "It was a lot of fun, a lot of enthusiasm, very energetic. All of the people opening up for her were really good."
"As far as gaining votes, I don't think rallies do that. It helped get people pepped up, ready to make phone calls, knock on doors for McCain."