FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. - Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain rode into the city for a campaign stop aboard the "Straight Talk Express" Tuesday.
The stop was one of several made by McCain and his running mate, vice presidential candidate Gov. Sarah Palin, over the last few weeks. The state of North Carolina, which President George W. Bush won in both 2000 and 2004 by double-digit margins, has not voted for a Democrat in the general election since 1976. Although Monday's Rasmussen poll shows McCain and Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama in a statistical dead heat-with McCain just leading Obama 49 percent to 48 percent-the McCain campaign was confident of victory.
"I'm going to keep my speech short, just like I am. John McCain's going to win North Carolina," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. "I'll beat Michael Phelps in swimming before Barack Obama wins North Carolina."
Graham, McCain's wife Cindy McCain, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., Republican state Rep. David Lewis and former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge accompanied McCain at the rally.
McCain's surrogates also pushed social issues as reason to support his candidacy. Ridge spoke not only about the possibility of the next president appointing as many as three justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, but also about the connection between safety and economic growth.
"You cannot be secure unless you are prosperous and you cannot be prosperous unless you have security," Ridge said.
McCain argued that he, and not Obama, had the right plan to return America to a state of prosperity. He repeatedly attacked Obama for his tax policy, which he said would be detrimental to the economy.
"Sen. Obama wants to punish the successful, while I want to make sure that everyone is successful," McCain said, continuing his assertion that Obama would support redistributive tax policies.
The McCain campaign has been using this line of attack since Obama told Joe Wurzelbacher that it would be ideal for the economy to "spread the wealth." Wurzelbacher is known to millions of Americans as Joe the Plumber-the man who told Obama that he feared the Senator's tax policy would destroy his American Dream.
The Obama campaign said the statement referred to those who would get the tax breaks under Obama's plan-applicable to those who earn less than $250,000 annually. McCain said, however, that higher taxes on anyone would be bad for the economy.
"The last thing you want to do in bad economic times is raise anyone's taxes," he said.
Throughout the event, many said success should not be penalized by higher taxes.
"I should not be punished for my hard work," said McCain-supporter Jamie Radding, a registered Democrat and small-business owner. "Everyone in this country has the opportunity to achieve in this country and it is their choice not to."
Although Obama's tax plan does call for a $1,000 refundable tax credit, many at the rally denounced this plan, saying it would take money from those who work and give it to those who do not.
"It's really just common sense-if you work you should be better off than if you don't," Lewis said, adding that Obama's plan would "give to those who are too lazy to improve themselves."
Country music icon Hank Williams Jr. provided entertainment for the crowd prior to McCain's arrival.
"All my McCain friends coming over tonight," Williams said in reference to one of his hit songs, "All My Rowdy Friends."
Williams also performed the song "McCain-Palin Tradition," which was written especially for the GOP candidates. The lyrics not only take aim at Obama, but also the Democratic-cotrolled Congress and the media.
"The left-wing liberal media have always been a real close-knit family, but most of the American people don't believe 'em anyway, ya see," Williams said.
McCain, acknowledging that national polls show him trailing Obama with just seven days before the election, encouraged his supporters to keep up their efforts and fight with him in the final week of this campaign.
"There are many ways to love this country but I've never been one to back down from a fight," McCain said. "Stand with me now and fight, and let's win this election."