10/08/08 — Palin hits ECU

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Palin hits ECU

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on October 8, 2008 1:46 PM

GREENVILLE -- Gov. Sarah Palin broke no new policy ground and unveiled no new attacks against Sen. Barack Obama Tuesday night in Greenville, but her supporters found plenty to cheer about nonetheless.

Alternating chants of her name, presidential nominee Sen. John McCain's name, "U.S.A." and the new Republican slogan, "drill, baby, drill," the crowd was at a near frenzy when the Alaskan governor and vice presidential nominee finally appeared on stage, at times even overpowering her during her speech.

It was a level of excitement that McCain supporter Carol Keister of Goldsboro admitted hadn't existed until Mrs. Palin was added to the ticket.

"She has a lot of common sense and a lot of the values a lot of people have," Ms. Keister said. "She's very down to earth."

"I just think she's the first candidate we've ever had who really understands what it means to be middle class," said Pam Hopkins of Greenville. "It also helps that she's a woman, but I wouldn't vote for her if I didn't think she shared the same values."

And it was a level of excitement that grew throughout the evening as a parade of state candidates, including Rep. Louis Pate running for state Senate District 12, Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory running for governor, and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole running for re-election, each took turns not only making their own cases, but laying out the McCain/Palin ticket as well.

"It takes a mayor to get things done," McCrory said.

And that's what Palin, the former mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, pledged she and McCain would do -- bring their maverick style and reform-oriented sense of government to Washington to get things done for average Americans.

"John McCain's the only man with a plan who will be able to help our work force, cut our taxes and get our economy back on the right track," she said.

His plans, she explained, include tax relief for the middle class and for business owners, ways to deal with soaring grocery and energy costs, ways to help keep people safe from foreclosures, ways to make college more affordable and ways to create more education reforms

She also pledged to immediately freeze government spending, except for vital programs, and to begin lowering the $10 trillion national debt, saying, "We've got to stop digging the hole."

Their Democrat opponent, she said, would dig that hole even deeper.

"He's built his career on doling out tax dollars," she said, noting his increased spending proposals. "He never bothers to tell you where the money will come from for all this government growth.

"You can do the math or you can listen to your gut, the conclusion's the same -- Barack Obama's going to raise your taxes."

Other issues mentioned included the need to protect entitlement spending like Social Security and Medicaid, as well as the need to make health care more affordable and accessible, primarily through a $5,000 tax credit to families purchasing their own insurance, rather than through an employer.

But the economy wasn't her only focus.

She also talked about energy security and the need to -- as her supporters put it -- "drill, baby, drill."

"We will," she said. "But it's got to be an all-of-the-above approach also. This land is so rich in conventional and alternative sources of energy."

And finally, there were the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Unlike our opponent, (John's) not afraid to use the word victory," Mrs. Palin said, reiterating McCain's support for the surge in Iraq, versus Obama's opposition. "As the mother of one of those troops, he is exactly the kind of man I want as commander-in-chief."

Most importantly, however, she said, McCain has a history and record of bipartisanship and reform -- unlike Obama, whom she accused of associating with known domestic terrorists like Bill Ayers.

"There are some candidates who use change to promote their careers, and then there are those like John McCain. This is a man whose principles and political interests mean so much more than just a party line," she said. "He doesn't run with the Washington herd. We're putting the government back on the side of the people."

And that, she added to great cheering, is something that the people of eastern North Carolina "get."

"It's the difference between a politician who has faith in government, and a leader who has faith in you. ... It's the difference between a guy who makes big promises, and a guy who gets things done," she said. "Truly John McCain is the only man in this race who has ever really fought for you."

But with the race in North Carolina likely to "come down to the wire," Mrs. Palin acknowledged that they're going to need a little help.

Fortunately, she added, Greenville and the nearly 8,000 people packing Williams Arena "know a little something about how to turn an underdog into a victor," alluding to East Carolina University's football team's two upset wins this season.

And ultimately, said ECU student Brett Matheson of Cary, that's the point -- to elect John McCain president.

"She's definitely energized the base here," he said, emphasizing, though, that it is still McCain at the top of the ticket. "McCain is the guy we really need to lead this country. He's a real American hero."