McCain visit to NH could help in South

September 14, 2008 5:37:06 PM PDT
John McCain defied all sense of geography Sunday by going north and south at the same time. The Republican presidential contender visited the battleground state of New Hampshire to attend a NASCAR race especially popular in GOP strongholds down South.

The twofer let McCain spend time in a state where Democrat Barack Obama has opened a lead - and campaigned Saturday - while simultaneously prospecting in a different region he is counting to be part of his Election Day base.

"Thank-you for your support for the men and women in the military," McCain told a meeting of race drivers. He was accompanied by NASCAR legend Richard Petty. "When I'm in Iraq and Afghanistan, they're watching you. You are their role model."

Petty led McCain through the garage area, where he shook hands with team owner and former NFL coach Joe Gibbs. McCain also was accompanied by Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, popular in New England despite being sidelined this season after shoulder surgery.

Meanwhile, former Bush political adviser Karl Rove became an unlikely critic of McCain, complaining that he had joined Obama in shading the truth in their campaign advertising.

"McCain has gone, in some of his ads, similarly gone one step too far in sort of attributing to Obama things that are, you know, beyond the 100-percent truth test," Rove told Fox News Sunday.

The Obama campaign has complained especially about an ad that declares Obama supports sex education for kindergarteners. He supported a program to teach children how to distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable touching to help them ward off sexual predators.

McCain is bolstering his southern outreach on Monday with a rally in Jacksonville, Fla., another pivotal electoral state where recent polls have shown him leading Obama. McCain won the Republican primaries in Florida and New Hampshire this year.

Among those greeting McCain as he arrived in New Hampshire was Sen. John Sununu, who is in a close re-election race with Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, the state's former governor. Sununu did not endorse anyone in the Republican primary and has largely eschewed GOP events - including the party's recent national convention in St.

Paul, Minn. - to minimize his connection to the Bush administration and any fallout from unfavorable national party trends.

McCain, and his wife, Cindy, came to the state to attend the Sylvania 300 Sprint Cup Series race at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. His running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, was spending a day off in Denver.

In brief pre-race remarks to the NASCAR crowd, the senator repeated his thanks to the sport for supporting the armed forces.

McCain left just after the drivers started their engines but before they started racing.

Obama spent Sunday off the trail and at home in Chicago. His campaign announced that it raised a record $66 million in August.

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