DAYTON, Ohio — We have arrived at the Ervin J. Nutter Center to find a completely full house — the fire marshall reports a capacity crowd of 15,000. On the bus ride from the hotel, the press bus was buzzing, with every reporter on board tapping away at a laptop or BlackBerry as one news outlet after another confirmed that Sen. John McCain has selected Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. Several reporters noted that they had prepared stories on several potential vice presidential nominees, but none of them had written one on Palin. This is truly out of left-field.
The standing-room-only crowd is loud and rowdy and, from the looks of it, they were handing out American flags at the door. A series of Ohio GOP officials is getting the crowd pumped up — pressing familiar attacks like McCain would bring a lifetime of experience while Sen. Barack Obama would bring a speech from 2002. However, some of the one-liners have been a little more creative, particularly this one from Ohio State Auditor Mary Taylor:
“A taxpayer voting for Obama is like a chicken voting for Col. Sanders.”
A local rock band called Element just took the stage — their music is loud and indistinguishable from anything you would hear on your average modern rock radio station. This is a departure from country star John Rich, who has performed at a couple of McCain’s past rallies, including one in Panama City, Fla. a few weeks ago, where he debuted a new song titled, “Raising McCain.” Rich is slated to perform at McCain’s rallies near Pittsburgh tomorrow and in St. Louis on Sunday, as well as at the Republican National Convention next week.
Element is now in the middle of its fourth song — a cover of Kiss’ “I Wanna Rock n’ Roll All Night.” OK. That’s an interesting choice for a Republican rally. The band is letting the audience sing the chorus, but it’s barely discernible from the crowd noise. It isn’t clear they know this one.
That was the band’s last song. They just showed a short film about McCain on the Jumbotrons. It got loud cheers from the crowd. Next come the “John McCain Cheerleaders,” who appear to be high-school age. They’re doing a little “We Want McCain” cheer and throwing a bunch of T-shirts into the audience.
The cheerleaders are now gone. McCain is reportedly on the highway en route to the arena. The crowd is doing the wave. That’s the first time I’ve seen that at a political rally. Country music is playing on the PA. I’ll pick up when somebody comes back to the stage…
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