McCain attends 50th class reunion

September 20, 2008 3:47:21 PM PDT
Republican presidential nominee John McCain took an afternoon away from the campaign trail Saturday, traveling to the U.S. Naval Academy for his 50th class reunion.The 72-year old McCain and his wife, Cindy, attended a private reception with other members of the Class of 1958. McCain later headed to the "Admiral's Bridge" above the Academy's stadium to watch the first quarter of the football game pitting the Midshipmen against Rutgers University's Scarlet Knights.

McCain's son, Jack, is a student at the Naval Academy. The Arizona senator often tells self-deprecating jokes about his own years there, noting that he graduated fifth from the bottom of his class.

Other members of the Class of 1958 include former academy superintendent Charles Larson, retired astronaut Bruce McCandless and John Poindexter, a national security adviser to President Reagan and a figure in the Iran-Contra scandal.

Before making the 45-minute drive to Annapolis, McCain spent much of the morning at campaign headquarters in Arlington, Va., preparing for his first nationally televised debate with Democrat Barack Obama. The debate will take place Friday at the University of Mississippi.

Polls show a very close race nationally, and Obama has targeted some states that have been easy wins for Republicans in recent presidential elections. McCain's political director said Saturday the GOP nominee is increasing staff levels in North Carolina to defend a state that hasn't gone Democratic for more than three decades.

While President Bush won the state by a wide margin just four years ago, North Carolina's booming population has brought a changing electorate, much like Virginia to the north.

"This is a state that has obviously grown a great deal," said political director Mike Duhaime. "Any time you have that kind of growth, you see opportunities for change: electorally and otherwise."

And the state's large black population has been galvanized by Obama's candidacy. Registrations among North Carolina blacks are up almost 10 percent this year while white registrations are up 4 percent.

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