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McCain Fakes Out Audience, Doesn’t Take Questions

WILMINGTON, N.C. — The sight of a troubling sign on the way to Sen. John McCain’s stop here at Cape Fear Community College didn’t presage an eventful rally — sort of.

The event was much smaller than the morning rally in Virginia Beach, where McCain and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin appeared. Fewer than 2,000 were attendance in the college’s gymnasium.

And McCain gave essentially the same speech as he did in the morning.

But at the beginning of the event, McCain indicated that he would take questions from the audience. “Before our conversation,” he said, “I’ve got to give you some straight talk…” — signaling his intention to talk with supporters.

But when he finished his speech, he abruptly left the stage, “Rocky” theme music blaring from the PA system. All indications were that the rally was over.

The audience stayed put for a few minutes, presumably wondering, as did reporters following the campaign, if the candidate was going to return to the stage and take questions.

He did not. And the audience left.

Rumor had it that the event was originally scheduled as a town hall meeting; McCain’s daily schedule showed an hour set aside for the event. Normally, his staff does not block off such long periods of time for rallies.

But in the wake of the bad press generated by some of his town-hall rallies last week — at an event in Minnesota an audience member said Sen. Barack Obama was an Arab — it might be understandable why the campaign would pass up holding a town hall where it could happen again.

Still, the abrupt end to the rally was a bizarre moment that left more than a few reporters wondering aloud if this campaign has become a rudderless ship.

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