BLOUNTVILLE — In coal country’s back yard, GOP presidential candidate John McCain charged Monday that Democratic opponent Barack Obama could bankrupt the coal industry.
“I’m not going to let our coal industry go bankrupt,” McCain pledged on the eve of the presidential election before a cheering crowd of more than 5,000 Republicans from Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia at a rally held at Tri-Cities Regional Airport.
At the rally, the McCain campaign distributed a paper citing a January interview with Obama who was quoted as saying: “If somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.”
McCain, in contrast, promised more investment in clean coal technology.
“We’re sitting on the world’s largest reserves of coal. ... When I’m elected president, we’re going to lower the cost of energy,” he told the crowd.
McCain’s stump speech to the region — the second of more than a half dozen campaign stops during the day — began with his campaign plane parked in front of the packed crowd at the east hangar at Tri-City Aviation.
He predicted victory over Obama by keeping Virginia in the red state column.
“I’ve been fighting for this country since I was 17 years old,” McCain said. “I have the scars to prove it. I’m not afraid to fight. I’m ready for it.”
McCain promised a tighter rein on federal spending and a veto for every last pork barrel measure.
“I will make government live on a budget just like you do,” he said. “We need to grow jobs, not government. ... I will take care of working people hurt by excess greed on Wall Street. ... The Democrats are talking about taxing everything in sight, including your 401(k) contributions.”
McCain also jumped all over Obama’s recent comment about “spreading the wealth” around America by removing the Bush administration’s tax cuts on the rich and giving tax breaks to the middle class.
“He wants to be the redistributor in chief,” McCain said of Obama. “I’m running to be the commander in chief. ... I’m running to create more wealth. ... We both disagree with President (George) Bush on economic policy, but he thinks taxes have been too low. I think taxes have been too high.”
McCain called Obama’s vice presidential running mate Joe Biden “the gift that keeps on giving” in reference to Biden’s recent remark about Obama being tested by an international crisis within six months if elected.
“I’ve been tested, and I passed that test. ... He said he would sit down unconditionally with dictators,” McCain said of Obama. “We’re going to win in Iraq. We’re going to win in Afghanistan.”
McCain also joked about his appearance on “Saturday Night Live,” where he did a skit with Tina Fey, the look-alike actress who plays his vice presidential running mate Sarah Palin.
“I really believe Sarah Palin and Tina Fey were separated at birth,” McCain said.
Finally, he noted that pollsters and pundits have been writing him off.
“My opponent is measuring the drapes in the White House ... but the Mac is back!” he exclaimed.
Of all the signs brought into the rally, one seemed to sum up the loud crowd’s mood. That sign read: “If John McCain wins, God bless him. If Barack Obama wins, God help us all.”