This story was written by Mitch Davis, The Dartmouth
PETERBOROUGH Descending from his Straight Talk Express bus to strains of Danger Zone, Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain and his entourage returned to New Hampshire on Sunday for a final town hall meeting before the Nov. 4 election. Greeted by a throng of supporters outside the event, McCain grew sentimental as he reflected on his past campaign stops here.
Its very nostalgic for me to come back to Peterborough, McCain said, referring to his past visits to the town during his 2000 and 2008 presidential bids. Twice, you have brought my political career to victory. I will fight for you in this election.
McCain, who was joined by his wife Cindy, was also accompanied by a number of high-profile supporters, including Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., New Hampshire Senators John Sununu and Judd Gregg and Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling. The four men all spoke on McCains behalf, criticizing Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama.
We have two days to go before the election, and I still have more experience than Barack Obama, Sununu said. John McCain puts his trust and confidence in you, not in bureaucracy.
In his remarks before the question-and-answer portion of the town hall event, McCain addressed concerns about government spending and the economy. The countrys current economic woes, he said, are the result of corruption and mismanagement in Washington.
Weve got to reform the way we do business, he said. It was members of Congress who defended what Fannie [Mae] and Freddie [Mac] did. Weve got to keep people in their homes. Until we do, this economys not going to turn around.
McCain also commented on Obamas tax proposal, criticizing Obamas interest income redistribution, which McCain described as his share-the-wealth approach.
You know what the economy is facing, he said. We cannot raise anybodys taxes in a bad economy.
McCain and his fellow speakers also emphasized foreign policy issues and McCains support for the troop surge in Iraq.
McCain questioned Obamas readiness to handle challenges from terrorism and foreign governments. He pointed to comments by Democratic vice presidential nominee Senator Joseph Biden that Americas enemies would instigate an international crisis to undermine a Democratic administration, as a sign that his opponent is unprepared to be president.
We will be in a titanic struggle for a long time, McCain said. I dont need to be tested. Senator Obama hasnt been tested.
Following the speeches, audience members asked questions about a variety of issues. In response to one attendees anxiety over potential voter fraud and unscrupulous registration practices, McCain said he found the allegations dispiriting, adding that one thing we dont need is a repeat of 2000.
Another member of the audience brought up McCains position on immigration and asked what he planned to do to increase immigration security.
McCain responded that immigrants are beneficial to American society and should have a path to legal citizenship open to them. Deporting all illegal immigrants is not a practical solution, he said, but the threat to national security from drug traffickers posed by an unsecured border needs to be addressed.
We dont have 12 million pairs of handcuffs, McCain said. These people also are Gods children, and they have to be handled with compassion.
The audience also brought up environmental issues, asking McCain about his stance on the construction of new coal-fired power plants and the use of tax credits to promote energy-efficient building construction. McCain promised to allot $2 billion to research clean-coal technology, support the constructio of new nuclear plants and increase the efficiency of federal buildings.
There was no significant mention of Republican vice presidential candidate Alaska Governor Sarah Palin during the rally. McCain referred to his running mate only once, responding to a question on education funding in which he expressed support for a project on autism research that Palin would lead in his administration.