“Heartland” of Ohio welcomes McCain with open arms

Marcus Barkley

Amidst a storm of red pom-poms, noise sticks and handmade signs, John McCain greeted a packed gymnasium at United High School in Hanoverton at 10 a.m. Friday during a stop on his “Road to Victory” bus tour – and he brought along his friends.

Assisting the Arizona senator were former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, as well as McCain’s wife Cindy and daughter Meghan.

Giuliani spoke about McCain’s qualifications and the reasons he should become president, including his ability to fight for all Americans and his promise to protect the United States.

Not to be outdone by the former mayor, Graham boasted a gift for the voters of Ohio if the state once again went red on Nov. 4.

“If we win Ohio, you all get a free weekend at Myrtle Beach,” Graham said. “The road to the White House runs through Ohio.”

With the crowd worked into near frenzy and chants of “Country First” and “We want John” echoing across the gym, McCain spoke for more than 20 minutes on his plans for America and why he is more ready for the presidency than Barack Obama.

“I’m not afraid of the fight.” McCain said. “I’m ready for the fight.”

McCain highlighted a number of issues during his speech, hitting hardest on the economy and homeland security.

“I promise to bring the troops home – but I’ll bring them home with victory and honor,” McCain said. “I know our friends and I know our enemies – and they know me.”

Other key points of the speech included lowering the costs of energy and using energy innovations such as clean coal technology to create millions of new jobs for Ohio and America. McCain also attacked Senator Obama on his plan for “spreading the wealth around.”

“Senator Obama is looking to punish the successful,” McCain said. “I’m looking to make everyone successful.”

The crowd of supporters, both young and old, was ecstatic that McCain had come to Columbiana County and a small town like Hanoverton.

“I think it’s awesome,” Dawn Cardelein, 49, of Leetonia, said. “I think will now be more informed than they were before.”

Alexis Thorne, 17, of Salem, was attending her second McCain rally and spoke fervently about why the Arizona Senator is the right choice, especially for people like her, the daughter of a small business owner.

“I don’t agree with Obama’s plan of taking from the rich and giving to the poor,” Thorne said. “I don’t think you should be punished for working hard and making a living for yourself.”

Though the support was mostly local, a number of out of state supporters trekked to the tiny town of Hanoverton to hear McCain.

“(I came from West Virginia) because I wanted to see John McCain and hear what he has to say,” Al Cronin, 56, of Chester, W.Va., said. “I’m hoping he’ll address national security because that’s my greatest concern.”

Caleb Huffman, 14, a member of the United High School band that played during the rally, said that it felt awesome to be there and to play for McCain.

“John McCain rocks,” Huffman said. “It makes me feel like I rock, too.”

Contact Public Affairs Reporter Marcus Barkley at [email protected].