Republicans hope national security gives McCain edge

by Jordan Green

They called it a GOP Women Rock the Vote event despite the fact that the music was provided by a hired DJ, and the song selection favored a canon that might just as easily make the cut for the Democratic Party’s soundtrack: John Mellencamp’s “ROCK in the USA,” Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” and Madonna’s “Express Yourself.”

Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes, one of the Republican Party’s local stars, conferred with High Point City Council candidate Latimer Alexander on Sunday afternoon, and then stepped up to the podium in front of the McCain Victory 2008 headquarters in the northern suburbs of High Point. So tall is the sheriff that his head was partially obscured by the canopy over the podium. Campaign yard signs lay in stacks against the wall inside the Republican headquarters, and 16 phones in the office sat idle as loyal party activists lined up at a buffet table for hot dogs. Rep. Howard Coble, who represents the 6 th Congressional District, gave a brief speech and then left for another campaign event. Other candidates stuck around and worked the parking lot: state Treasurer candidate Bill Daughtridge, state House District 59 candidate Jim Rumley, state House District 77 candidate Dr. Ada Fisher, Guilford County Commission at-large candidate Larry Proctor and High Point City Council candidate Jim Corey. Bill Wright, chairman of the Guilford County Republican Party, said the McCain campaign has been putting volunteers to work making calls on behalf of the presidential ticket, incumbent US Sen. Elizabeth Dole and gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory. The campaign is targeting so-called “soft voters,” those identified in public voting records as not having shown up at the polls at least once in the past three elections. Later, Wright said, the campaign would likely send volunteers to knock on doors and deploy robo calls. Wright expressed confidence in the party’s ability to close the deal as the campaign nears the finish line in this year in which the Obama campaign has suggested it might bust the monopoly held by the Republican Party on presidential elections since 1976. “National security, that will come down to being the premier issue,” Wright said. “Last week, it was the economy. That’s why you’ve got a bump in Obama’s polling numbers. The stock market’s going back up and the president’s plan will take effect. The Iran-Israel issue will take precedence — Ahmadinejad coming over and talking about the destruction of Israel. That and the new security alliance between Russia and Venezuela. I’ve said there will come a time when Russia will try to reconstruct the Soviet Union. The question the voters will ask themselves is, who do they feel has the most experience?” The McCain campaign announced on Sept. 20 that it had hired 20 new paid staffers and opened about 14 new offices across the state, bringing its total to about 23. In contrast, the Obama campaign employs about 200 paid staffers distributed at 34 offices across the state. Wright said Republicans will also try to paint Obama as a typical Democrat — “no different than John Kerry and Al Gore, someone who wants bigger government, more government and more regulation.” Around 3 p.m., High Point Republican Party Chairman David Ruden announced a raffle for a ceramic “Palin pig.” “What you do with it is up to you,” he said. Gov. Sarah Palin, Sen. John McCain’s running mate, has galvanized a party whose leadership was grimly bracing itself for a loss only two months ago. Dr. Juan Fernandez, an OB/GYN with a practice in Greensboro and a lifelong Republican who came to the United States with his parents from Cuba at the age of 6, is among her fans. “She doesn’t come from an Ivy League background,” he said. “She comes from a PTA background. Both McCain and Palin are mavericks who have gone against the party to stand up for the people. She listens. She’s one of us. She is the same person now that she was when she was the mayor. She’s a very humble individual. She has a family that has had ups and downs like everybody else. Just because she has kids doesn’t mean she can’t juggle governing and family.”

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