McCain woos N.C. military

Republican presidential candidate John McCain tried Tuesday to keep North Carolina in the GOP column, saying that only he was seasoned enough to lead a country at war and with a struggling economy.

McCain predicted he would win North Carolina next Tuesday – a GOP state that Republicans have traditionally taken for granted but over which McCain is battling Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. He sought to tap into the state's military ties during his rally near the home of Fort Bragg, the nation's largest Army base.

“Senator Obama is running to be redistributionist in chief,” McCain said. “I'm running to be commander in chief.”

The crowd of 8,200 in the Crown Coliseum at Crown Center waved thousands of orange noisemakers and cheered as country crooner Hank Williams Jr. denounced the news media in song. The crowd often drowned out McCain's lines with cheers such as “Fight! Fight! Fight!” or “U-S-A! U-S-A!”

For the first time in recent memory, North Carolina is one of several key states in the race for president, and candidates visit regularly. Today, Obama plans to address a rally in downtown Raleigh. And on Saturday, GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is scheduled to come to Raleigh.

McCain arrived Tuesday at the coliseum in his campaign bus, The Straight Talk Express, accompanied by his wife, Cindy, former Homeland Security Chief Tom Ridge and U.S. Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

McCain struck a Trumanesque pose as the fighter urging voters to ignore the powers in Washington who, in his words, were already “measuring the drapes” in the White House for Obama.

“The pundits have written us off,” McCain said. “Senator Obama is working out details with Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid to raise your taxes and concede defeat in Iraq.”