McCain, Palin draw a crowd in Blaine

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 ticketâÄôs first stop in Minnesota since the Republican National Convention more than two weeks ago. âÄúWe will win the state of Minnesota,âÄù 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 McCainâÄôs candidacy. âÄúThere is only one man in this election who has ever really fought for you,âÄù Palin said, introducing McCain. It wasnâÄôt all hard-hitting from Palin, who introduced her husband, Todd Palin , as the âÄúFirst DudeâÄù of Alaska and was interrupted by chants of âÄúdrill, baby, drill.âÄù McCain focused much of his speech on the economy, but stressed his message as a reformer as well. âÄúThe days of âÄòme first, country secondâÄô will end on Nov. 4,âÄù he said. McCain also went on the offensive, going after Obama numerous times in his speech. âÄúThatâÄôs how we see this election,âÄù McCain said. âÄúCountry first or Obama first.âÄù 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 heâÄôs heard McCain deliver. He said the number of people who attended was âÄúmind boggling.âÄù âÄúIâÄôve never been to a rally with that amount of people hyped up about the same thing,âÄù he said. Gophers head hockey coach Don Lucia was one of the speakers who addressed the crowd prior to McCainâÄôs arrival. âÄúIt sounds like John McCain and Sarah Palin have a power play going on in Minnesota,âÄù he told the crowd, some of whom held up âÄúHockey Moms for McCainâÄù 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 pollâÄôs 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. âÄúPeople are starting to see that Barack Obama is all fluff,âÄù 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. âÄúWe needed to send John McCain a message,âÄù ObamaâÄôs 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. âÄúSome of the shine is starting to wear off,âÄù he said. âÄúWeâÄôre still in the driverâÄôs seat.âÄù Rybak said he wasnâÄôt surprised by the large crowd that came out for the rally. âÄúThe Obama campaign has always been about mobilizing scores of people,âÄù he said. âÄúWe did that again today.âÄù Young voters will be especially important in the November elections, Rybak said. âÄúYoung voters have connected the dots,âÄù Rybak said. âÄúThe war, economy, the environment and oil prices are not separate issues.âÄù