McCain and Palin speak to thousands about issues, earmarks

Palin responds to earmarks criticism.

Republican presidential nominee John McCain and his vice presidential pick Sarah Palin spoke about earmarking, their energy plan and tax reform at a rally Monday morning in Lee's Summit, a suburb of Kansas City.

McCain said winning the suburban vote in towns such as Lee's Summit would be key for the party to capture Missouri in November. The state has voted for the winner of the U.S. presidential election in every election year except one since 1904, giving it a reputation as a bellwether state.

"This state we must win, and we will win," McCain said.

Although tickets were not required for the event, only a fraction of the thousands of people that waited outside at John Knox Village Pavilion ended up inside the packed building.

Lee's Summit resident Clif Callahan was among the nearly 3,000 supporters who were able to see the candidates in person.

"Anything with Palin is a big deal right now for either party," said Callahan, who is a retired high school debate teacher. "The American public has been looking for a candidate like her for a long time."

Before McCain and Palin took the stage, Republican gubernatorial candidate Kenny Hulshof was one of the many politicians who spoke. He discussed his health care and energy plans. Missouri attorney general candidate Mike Gibbons also spoke.

After a 15-minute wait for the candidates' arrival, the crowd greeted McCain, Palin and Palin's husband with chants of "Sarah" and "straight talk."

Palin took the microphone first and wasted no time responding to recent criticism from Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee.

Obama criticized the amount of earmarks Palin requested as Alaska governor. Earmarks are projects lawmakers acquire for their district by tacking the spending onto unrelated bills.

Palin said Obama requested almost $1 billion in earmarks for Illinois during his time in the Senate.

"The other day, our opponent brought up earmarks and, frankly, I was surprised that he would even raise the subject at all," Palin said. "I thought he wouldn't want to go there."

Palin also spoke about Missouri's importance in the general election.

"It's going to be a hard fought battle in Missouri," Palin said. "We're going to take our case of reform to every background in the state."

The Alaskan governor also reemphasized some of the points she stressed during her speech at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., last week.

"As I've said before, there are some candidates who use change to promote their careers and there are some candidates who use their careers to promote change," Palin said.

Palin then handed the stage over to McCain, who promised the crowd, "Change is coming," before launching into a speech that covered tax reform, health care and energy plan.

"We must stop sending $700 billion a year for gas to countries that don't like us very much," McCain said. "Sen. Obama doesn't want nuclear power and he doesn't want to drill offshore, but we have to do that."

McCain continued to stress the message of change, promising that with the help of his running mate, he would "drain the swamp" in Washington.

"I've been called a maverick," McCain said. "Now we have a team of mavericks."

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