Republican presidential candidate John McCain visited Columbus, Ohio, Monday, in his first public appearance since the presidential debate Friday. During his "Road to Victory" rally at Capital University, McCain urged a large crowd at a relatively small venue to support him during what he calls "tough times."
After introductions from his wife, Cindy, and running-mate Sarah Palin, McCain was quick to criticize Sen. Barack Obama's performance at the first presidential debate Friday. "He was asked to name a single program he would consider cutting to help our country get through this crisis," McCain said. "He couldn't name a single program, and in his response, he started naming programs he wanted to increase."
Palin was just as quick to throw a jab at Sen. Joe Biden. "I do look forward to Thursday night in debating Sen. Biden," she said. "I've never met him, but I've been hearing about his Senate speeches since I was in like, second grade."
Much of McCain's speech focused on justifying the temporary suspension if his campaign last week.
"I went to Washington last week to make sure that the taxpayers of Ohio and across this great country were not left footing the bill for mistakes made on Wall Street and in Washington," McCain said.
In a barrage of attacks directed at Obama, McCain accused his opponent of "watching from the sidelines" during the recent economic downturn.
Both McCain and Palin said they would lower taxes and would bring new jobs to Ohio while creating energy independence through the use of clean coal.
After the rally, Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor released a statement that called McCain's speech an "angry diatribe" that "won't make up for his erratic response to the greatest financial crisis of our time."
Before McCain arrived to the rally at noon, the crowd heard speeches from Jon Husted, Ohio Speaker of the House, and Air Force veteran Tom Moe, who was held as a prisoner of war with McCain in Hanoi during the Vietnam War.
Outside the Capital Center, a group of protesters gathered, chanting and holding banners throughout the day.
The rally was McCain's first visit to Capital University, which has fewer than 4,000 undergraduate students, but it follows a recent trend of visits to smaller universities and colleges in Ohio. Both Obama and McCain visited Baldwin Wallace College in recent months, and Biden spoke at the College of Wooster earlier in September.
Although the rally had limited capacity, the Ohio State College Republicans chartered a bus to bring more than 30 students to the rally, and 14 members of the organization volunteered at the event.
"[The rally] was kind of nice being small," junior Jimmy Ernst said. "We were real close, which was nice, because I'm sure we wouldn't have been if it was at the 'Shoe [Ohio Stadium]."
Freshmen Melissa Black and Katie Wall said the event was a memorable way to start the school year. "We're freshmen and within our first week we're already at a McCain rally," Black said.
CBS news anchor Katie Couric was also in Columbus Monday to interview McCain and Palin, and the CBS evening news was broadcast from near downtown.
The first 2008 vice-presidential debate will be Thursday evening and the second presidential debate is scheduled for next Tuesday.