Republican presidential candidate John McCain and running mate Gov. Sarah Palin told a crowd of about 10,000 in Blaine on Friday that the state will be wide open in the presidential election on Nov. 4 .
It was the ticket’s first stop in Minnesota since the Republican National Convention more than two weeks ago.
“We will win the state of Minnesota,” McCain told the crowd, packed into a hangar at the Anoka County-Blaine Airport Friday afternoon.
Palin outlined her plans for energy independence, took aim at Democratic rival Barack Obama and touted McCain’s candidacy.
“There is only one man in this election who has ever really fought for you,” Palin said, introducing McCain.
It wasn’t all hard-hitting from Palin, who introduced her husband, Todd Palin , as the “First Dude” of Alaska and was interrupted by chants of “drill, baby, drill.”
McCain focused much of his speech on the economy, but stressed his message as a reformer as well.
“The days of ‘me first, country second’ will end on Nov. 4,” he said.
McCain also went on the offensive, going after Obama numerous times in his speech.
“That’s how we see this election,” McCain said. “Country first or Obama first.”
University senior and College Republicans chairman Abdul Magba-Kamara attended the rally and sat in the bleachers behind the podium. He said it was the best speech he’s heard McCain deliver.
He said the number of people who attended was “mind boggling.”
“I’ve never been to a rally with that amount of people hyped up about the same thing,” he said.
Gophers head hockey coach Don Lucia was one of the speakers who addressed the crowd prior to McCain’s arrival.
“It sounds like John McCain and Sarah Palin have a power play going on in Minnesota,” he told the crowd, some of whom held up “Hockey Moms for McCain” signs throughout the event.
Recent polls show a narrow race in Minnesota. The Big Ten Battleground poll , conducted by the University of Wisconsin , has Obama leading by only 2 percent in Minnesota , within the poll’s margin of error.
Still, no Republican has won the state in a presidential election since 1972. Magba-Kamara said he expects that to change this year.
“People are starting to see that Barack Obama is all fluff,” he said.
While McCain was rallying in Blaine, Obama supporters had an assembly of their own in downtown Minneapolis.
About 4,000 people, including Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and several Minneapolis City Council members, gathered at noon near the Peavey Plaza to show support for Obama.
“We needed to send John McCain a message,” Obama’s state campaign director Jeff Blodgett said.
The rally was organized in only two days, and the strong turnout was encouraging, he said.
The boost in support that McCain saw after the Republican National Convention will fade with time, Blodgett said.
“Some of the shine is starting to wear off,” he said. “We’re still in the driver’s seat.”
Rybak said he wasn’t surprised by the large crowd that came out for the rally.
“The Obama campaign has always been about mobilizing scores of people,” he said. “We did that again today.”
Young voters will be especially important in the November elections, Rybak said.
“Young voters have connected the dots,” Rybak said. “The war, economy, the environment and oil prices are not separate issues.”