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Wisconsin Voters Come Out For McCain

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1,500 people turned out yesterday in Racine, Wisconsin for the so-called Straight Talk Express. Arizona Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, visited the town as part of his cross-country campaign.

The line of people waiting to see McCain snaked outside of Memorial Hall in downtown Racine, down the street just off Lake Michigan. There was a mix of staunch supporters, undecideds, and protesters.

When McCain took the stage, he seemed ready for anything.

McCAIN: My friends, we all know the town hall meeting is the essence and I think the fundamental of the process.

But, picking hands at random, McCain was able to ease into the Q and A.

MONTAGE: Senator McCain, I’d just like to express on my own behalf and my family and friends, we love ya/Hi, I don’t have a question, but I just wanted to say to my friends that I talked to the next president of the United States of America/Obama, like, terrifies me/One thing I wanted to ask ya, how’s your mom?

The conversation did eventually steer toward other issues in the news. McCain addressed a recent controversy, his new campaign ad against the likely Democratic nominee, Illinois Senator Barack Obama. The commercial calls Obama the biggest celebrity in the world, with images of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton.

McCAIN: All I can say is that we’re proud of that commercial.

But there was also plenty of time in the town hall session for policy questions and McCain outlined his ideas in support of charter schools and creating more competition for where students can get an education. Outside of the meeting, though, a lot of the potential Wisconsin voters had a central issue on their minds.

MONTAGE: John McCain’s energy program/energy policy/the energy policy is really broad-based.

I caught up with Linda Pfuhl sitting around after the speech, waiting for the crowd to disperse. She was wearing two McCain buttons and Pfuhl says he has the better solutions to high gas prices.

PFUHL: Cause I don’t care rich or poor, your gas tank, that affects everybody.

In particular, Pfuhl likes McCain’s backing of nuclear energy and his willingness to be less dependent on oil from the Middle East. Outside Memorial Hall, though, it was McCain’s energy policies that Chris Gulbrandson was protesting. Gulbrandson says he doesn’t like McCain’s idea of a gas tax holiday.

GULBRANDSON: To continue with that policy doesn’t cut it, so we need something new and I think Obama has it.

When it comes to winning Wisconsin, Gulbrandson says the political climate in his hometown of Racine is split pretty evenly and both the Democrats and Republicans are active in the area. And they have options in recruiting voters.

ZANIS: Do you expect to your mind made up after today? No. Not at all. I don’t. My mind will be made up November 4, 6, whatever.

Jacquie Zanis says she’s purposely waiting until the last minute to decide between Obama and McCain, just listening to the two sides in the meantime. She says she wants the troops out of Iraq, but, also, she’s thinking local.

ZANIS: I would move if my parents didn’t live here and my husband wasn’t three years away from retirement.

Zanis says Racine’s economy’s gone down the tubes and businesses can’t stay open. How that relates to who she’ll vote for for president, Zanis says she remembers when the country, like Racine, was in better shape. Zanis says ultimately, she’ll vote for who she thinks will give the bigger effort to getting the country back to the good old days.

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