From CBS News' Dante Higgins:
John McCain kicks off what he's calling his "It's Time for Action" tour today in Selma, Ala., the first of several untraditional stops for a Republican presidential candidate.
McCain's campaign says the reason for visiting Alabama today is to speak to African American voters, a demographic that overwhelmingly votes Democratic year-in and year-out.
"The Senator feels 'The Black Belt' is important and it's certainly a place many Republicans have not gone. Unfortunately, Republicans don't have the greatest track record in getting the African American vote, so it's an opportunity not only to discuss important issues these communities are facing, including challenges in education, improving job skills, and finding jobs, but it's also a chance for McCain to let voters know he won't leave them behind," said Brooke Buchanan, press secretary.
McCain spoke at the Lorraine Motel last month to commemorate the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. He was jeered when he mentioned his vote against honoring King with a national holiday. He said he was wrong then, today he's in Selma, with a population of about 20,000 people, 70 percent of whom are African American.
"In America all things are possible, even a civilization as great as the one envisioned by Dr. King and [Rep.]John Lewis. But we are practical people, and most of us are honest, and we know we have a ways to go," McCain will say, according to his prepared remarks.
"This week, I will be traveling to places in America that aren't enjoying the prosperity many other parts of America enjoy, but where people are walking a long, hard road to make sure that their children will know the opportunities that other American children possess. They are places that for too long suffered too many disadvantages, but where people of good character and stout hearts believe in the possibility of making the future better than the past, the essence of the American Dream."
"There must be no forgotten places in America, whether they have been ignored for long years by the sins of indifference and injustice, or have been left behind as the world grew smaller and more economically interdependent," McCain will.
While today's focus seems to be black voters, his camp says it's an opportunity for McCain to reach out and create a dialogue with all Americans.
"It's not just for African Americans but all Americans who have been left behind whether it be economics woes or quality of education. There are places in this country where prosperity has been lacking. His goal is to talk about how he could improve the situation," says press secretary Buchanan.
McCain arrived last night and had dinner at "The Downtowner" with Gov. Bob Riley, R-Ala., and members of the Tuesday Group, a racially-mixed group of Selma professionals that get together once a month for drinks and dinner. McCain sat down to a plate of fried chicken, green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy, and mac and cheese with iced tea.
His weeklong tour will hit Youngstown,Ohio, Kentucky, New Orleans and Little Rock, Ark.