First Posted: 9/22/2008
The is at the town hall meeting featuring Arizona Sen. John McCain at the Scranton+Cultural+Center%22>Scranton Cultural Center. The visit is McCain’s second to the area this year and his first since accepting the Republican Party nomination for President of the United States. He previously spoke at the F.M. Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre on July 23. While in Scranton, he will make history as the first Republican candidate to participate in the Irish Presidential Forum.
A September 11 Quinnipiac University poll showed McCain closing a gap on the lead held by his Democratic opponent, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, in Pennsylvania. The swing state poll showed McCain trailing 48-45 in the Keystone State, compared to a 49-42 lead held by Obama on August 26.
McCain is not expected to campaign with running mate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin until later today for a "Main Street USA" event in Media, PA.
Doors open at 8 a.m., and the event is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. The most recent updates are at the top.
11:10 a.m. EDT | Tough times: McCain said America may be entering one of the most difficult times in its history. "We have to bring back prosperity and jobs. I have been prepared all my life in doing one thing – put our country first."
"Pennsylvania is a battleground state. We’ll be up late on election night. I’m the underdog in this race," he said. "I need your vote. I need the Irish-American vote, the Italian-American vote, every American…"
McCain concluded his remarks at 11:12 a.m. and began shaking hands with members of the audience.
11:05 a.m. EDT | Health care and Sarah: The second question is on health care, and a third audience member said "Thank you for Sarah Palin."
Another woman asked members of the media where their "investigators were over in Chicago," referencing a McCain ad released today.
"She’s a reformer, and she will bring change and reform and that’s what Americans want very badly today," McCain said of Palin.
Another question comes about jobs moving offshore. The audience member, a father of four, said that speculation is almost 1,500 jobs will be moved out of the county in the next two weeks.
"This is happening all over America," McCain said. "We have such a high business tax in America that it makes it attractive for these companies to move overseas."
"The long term answer is that we need an education and re-training program for displaced workers," he added. The new economy, McCain said, will revolve around alternative energy production. "The new technologies… will bring millions of jobs to America."
10:56 a.m. EDT| Three questions: McCain will take three questions from the audience. The first question asked concerns the Democratic energy package. "I think it’s a joke," the audience member said.
"Obviously, we’ve got to stop sending $700 billion overseas to countries that don’t like us very much," McCain said. "Some of that money is in the hands of terrorist organizations."
McCain called for all forms of alternative energy, including offshore drilling. "We have to have nuclear power. It’s clean and it’s safe. We’ve sailed our ships around the world (on nuclear power) for 60 years, and we’ve never had an accident."
McCain mentioned the upcoming debate with Obama on Friday, Sept. 26. "He was wrong about Iraq, he was wrong about Georgia, he was wrong about Russia, he was wrong about Iran, and he’s not right for America’s future."
10:48 a.m. EDT | Border security and immigration: McCain assured that there will be no weakening in the United State’s commitment to the security of Northern Ireland.
Comprehensive immigration reform was a dangerous decision along party lines, McCain said, because it forced him to reach across party lines to Democrats. Part of that reform includes a temporary, legal worker program that requires workers return to their country of origin, he said.
Obama submitted an amendment to the reform that eliminated the temporary worker program, according to McCain.
10:42 a.m. EDT | No hesitation on economy: McCain’s first major speaking point is on the economy, which has been in a near-epic downturn in the past several days. "I think it’s clear that Congress must think and act quickly," he said.
"We won’t solve a problem that’s a result of poor oversight with no oversight. They must ensure that, throughout this crisis, the government is a careful steward of taxpayer dollars."
McCain said taxpayers cannot foot the bill for senior executives who run their companies into the ground and allow the federal government to rescue them. "We need to put our country first and focus on what’s best for Main Street. We must help keep people in their homes," he said. "Times are tough for our economy, and I expect more tough times before the election."
10:35 a.m. EDT | McCain takes the stage for town hall meeting: Sen. John McCain reached the stage at 10:35 a.m.. Sen. Joe Lieberman is among those joining McCain on his visit to Scranton. The Democrat-turned-Independent was greeted with a standing ovation.
McCain was also greeted with a standing ovation and applause that lasted for about two full minutes. McCain called Specter and Lieberman both great Senators and great Irish-Americans and recognized the presence of Lindsey Graham.
"I look forward to meeting Dwight Schrute," McCain joked, referencing the NBC sitcom "The Office," which is set in Scranton.
McCain recognized the "contribution of Irish-Americans in literally every war this nation has been engaged in" and recognized all veterans in attendance.
10:15 a.m EDT | Big numbers, Specter speaks: "Between John McCain and Sarah Palin, they have 12 children. Is that an Irish ticket, or what?" Callahan said, jokingly.
GOP Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter stepped to the podium at 10:15 a.m. "I only have four minutes or I would have enjoyed this a lot longer," Specter said, jokingly, amidst a standing ovation.
"Gov. Palin has brought enormous excitement to our base," Specter said. "When the two candidates stand side-by-side in the televised debates," he predicts a great difference based on Sen. McCain’s experience, knowledge of the economy and his understanding of foreign policy.
"We need a man with the kind of experience that McCain has to lead America for the next eight years," Specter said.
10:00 a.m. EDT | Hibernians among Irish-Americans speaking: Seamus Boyle, national president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, said he is excited to see the size of the crowd gathered for Sen. McCain.
Chris Callahan, former GOP candidate for comptroller of New York said he came to the event "clinging to his Bible and his gun," a reference to a statement about religion and the Second Amendment made by Sen. Obama earlier this year about residents of Pennsylvania.
"Whatever happens, this November 4 we are going to make history," Callahan said, referring to Gov. Palin being elected to the Vice President.
9:40 a.m. EDT | Speakers begin taking the stage: Adrian Flannelly is addressing the crowd and has announced that McCain will be the first Republican to participate in the Irish Presidential Forum. It is also the first time the forum has been held in Scranton.
"A lot of the issues that we are concerned with, he has been consistent in," Flannelly said.
New York businessman and Vice Chairman of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform Ciaran Staunton said the Irish-American community never forgets a friend and that "the Irish will remember in November."
"Immigration isn’t a dirty word. It’s our father’s word, it’s our grandfather’s word," Staunton said. "I’m here to say John McCain stood with us, and we’re waiting to hear from the other candidate."
8:55 a.m. EDT | Arriving early has some benefits: Shelton, Conn., resident James Capra, who was among the first in line for the town hall meeting is now one of about 100 people seated on stage at the Scranton Cultural Center.
Capra drove three hours and skipped work and school to make it to Scranton.
A campaign volunteer said tickets for the event were in high demand. Between 300 and 400 tickets were gone from McCain’s Wilkes-Barre office in about two hours.
The line outside the Scranton Cultural Center has grown, even as the doors opened almost one hour ago. The end of the line nearly reaches the corner of Vine Street and Adams Avenue, almost one city block away from the doors to the Cultural Center.
Inside, about 600 people including those seated on stage having close to 90 minutes to wait before McCain takes the stage.
7:53 a.m. EDT | Doors opening soon: Doors open to the McCain town hall meeting in minutes. Press crews from NHK Japan are among those granted access to the Scranton event.
Outside, supporter Erich Hunisch, 17, of Moosic, carried a sign that read "Religious gun clingers for McCain." While Hunisch will not be old enough to vote in the November general election, he said that he feels all voices should be heard in the election.
"It’s seems like he’s going to do the right thing for America," Hunisch said of McCain. He’s been through the best and the worst times, so I think he’ll know what to do for the country."
7:34 a.m. EDT | ‘NEPA will carry McCain’: About 300 people are now in line for the McCain event, which stretches around the corner of North Washington Avenue and Vine Street. Shome in line have purchased buttons and T-shirts from at least three sidewalk vendors outside the Scranton Cultural Center.
Scranton resident and McCain volunteer Mike Taluto, who saw the Senator speak at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul earlier this month, said McCain’s values, views and pledge for lower taxes should connect with area voters. He was confident that "NEPA (northeastern Pennsylvania) will carry McCain" in the November general election.
Vietnam veteran Nick Lubianetsky of Harding said that he believes in McCain’s views on the war in Iraq. "I believe in a gradual pull-out," Lubianetsky said, adding that the idea of leaving the country in a hurried fashion could be dangerous.
"I’d like to see affordable health care for all Americans," he continued. "That’s probably one of the prime issues for me."
Lubianetsky said his concerns over the economy were minimal. He predicted he would be working to make ends meet no matter who gets elected, just as he has under several previous administrations.
7:21 a.m. EDT | Crowd grows slowly: Nearly 150 people have arrived at the Scranton Cultural Center, including Dunmore resident Jean Kveragas who arrived at 7 a.m. Kveragas said her son David, of Clarks Summit, informed her of the event and even called to secure her tickets.
"I think he had me (with the selection of Gov. Sarah Palin)," Kveragas said, although she is undecided. While she was interested to hear McCain’s policies, she said she would not arrive early at an event to listen to Sen. Barack Obama, McCain’s opponent in the general election.
Olyphant resident Kim DeMatteo-MacDonald is a volunteer for the McCain, Chris Hackett and Lou Barletta campaigns. Hackett and Barletta are seeking Congressional seats in the 10th and 11th Districts against incumbents Chris Carney and Paul Kanjorski, respectively.
"I feel like he’s stronger on terrorism and that he’s strong with the economy," DeMatteo-MacDonald said. "He’s the only one is 2006 that said Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were getting too big.
"I love Sarah (Palin)," she added. "She’s a strong woman and she’s exactly what Washington needs to shake things up."
70-year-old Marilyn Rozell, of West Scranton, has a grandson serving in Iraq. "My husband and I feel that he’s the best one to get us out of the mess in Iraq. Obama says he brings hope, but I just don’t find it."
She called the selection of Palin as a running mate a "yippee" moment. While she supported McCain from the start, the selection of Palin secured it.
7:07 a.m. EDT | Panel blogger among first in line: With about 120 people in line behind him, West Pittston resident and Times Leader Voter Panel member Paul Stebbins, 29, is joined by about five friends just outside the doors of the Cultural Center. Stebbins arrived at 4:30 a.m. with the hopes of being on stage. His early arrival at the town hall meeting at the F.M. Kirby Center got him seated next to Chris Hackett.
"It was phenomenal," Stebbins said. "I was five feet away. It was almost a man-crush," he said, jokingly.
Stebbins is joined in front by Connecticut residents James Capra, 23, and Chris Ford, 18. Capra said he saw the event on the McCain campaign Web site and was Fed-Ex’d tickets from a Chris Hackett campaign office.
"I’m a huge supporter of John McCain. This is just awesome. I’m just happy to be here," Capra said. He skipped classes at Southern Connecticut State University and his work at a local law firm to drive three hours to Scranton.
Ford, a registered Republican and chairman of the Naugatack Valley Young Republicans, said he is supporting McCain to keep Republicans in the White House.
"I want to see our country come back together. To do that, we have to stray from some of the Bush policies that aren’t really even Republican policies. We have to stray from Bush and stick to the platform."
Stebbins, Ford and Capra all expressed disappointment that Sarah Palin would not be in attendance.