Palin pushes economy, energy in first N.C. visit

GREENVILLE, N.C. - Chants of "drill baby drill," a country music performance and two U.S. senators helped create a convention-like buzz for Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's first appearance in North Carolina Tuesday.

An excited crowd of approximately 8,000 packed into Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum near the campus of East Carolina University to see Alaska Gov. Palin discuss government spending, energy independence and the military experience of nominee Sen. John McCain before the second presidential debate in Nashville, Tenn.

"What we are going to see tonight is the difference between a politician who puts his faith in government and a leader who puts his faith in you," Palin said. "He believes in our troops and he believes in their mission, and I'll tell you, as the mother of one of those troops, he is exactly the kind of man I want."

Stickers, buttons, T-shirts and signs throughout the coliseum carried slogans like, "Read my lipstick," "Tar Heels love high heels" and "Palin power." The crowd, which sporadically broke into chants of "No-bama," was also enthusiastic to hear Palin criticize her Democratic opponents.

"The phoniest claim in a campaign that's been full of them is that Barack Obama is going to cut your taxes," said Palin.

She added that she had eliminated small business taxes and "annoying" government fees during her time as a mayor and governor.

"You can spend money better than government can spend it for you, I guarantee you," she said.

McCain's administration would impose a spending freeze in the federal government, Palin said. She also discussed energy independence but did not join in the crowd's calls to "drill baby drill." Instead, she called it "a matter of national security" that requires an "all-of-the-above approach also."

Palin largely avoided discussing the financial crisis on Wall Street in her roughly 30-minute speech. But Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C. and Woman's College '58, brought a sense of economic anxiety to the rally in her earlier speech by explaining that she had tried to introduce legislation that would "reign in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac."

Dole, who is locked in a tight battle for reelection with state Sen. Kay Hagan of Greensboro, said her opponent was well funded by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

"He's trying to buy North Carolina with his New York money," she said.

North Carolina's junior senator, Richard Burr, a Republican who is not up for reelection until 2010, introduced Palin, saying she shares the values of ordinary Americans.

"Most in this crowd already feel like they know her, because she's one of us," he said. "Every day she wakes up and balances her personal life with her professional life."

Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, who is running as the Republican candidate for N.C. governor against Democratic Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue, said in his earlier speech that Palin's experience as mayor of small town Wasilla, Alaska made her an ideal choice as McCain's running mate.

Durham's allotment of tickets for the event sold out within an hour after they became available, said Steve Hill, regional victory director in McCain's Durham Victory Office.


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