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Thousands turn out for Palin campaign rally; GOP’s VP candidate compares McCain, Obama on big issues

By Staff | Oct 7, 2008

Nearly 9,000 applauding, cheering and chanting Southwest Florida residents turned out Monday to see Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska, speak at a campaign rally at the Germain Arena in Estero.

Palin came out to boisterous applause and chants of “Sar-ah, Sar-ah” before talking for about half an hour about the differences between her running mate, John McCain, and his opponent, Barack Obama.

She spoke of the differing tax, energy, economic and foreign policies the two presidential hopefuls have. Palin also pointed out what some see as Obama’s questionable relationships.

“John McCain is the only man in this race who will solve the economic crisis and not exploit it,” she said.

As in earlier speeches since her debate with Democratic vice presidential hopeful Joe Biden last week, Palin continued to draw attention to Obama’s relationship with Bill Ayres, a founding member of the Weather Underground, a 1960s radical group that engaged in a domestic bombing campaign.

Obama worked with Ayres on a council on schools in Chicago, and Ayres hosted a “meet the candidate” event at his home for Obama in the 1990s. Obama has denounced Ayres’ actions in the ’60s, and has pointed out that he was 8 years old when those actions took place.

Palin, however, is not buying Obama’s attempt to play down his connection with Ayres.

“He didn’t know he had launched his career in the living room of a domestic terrorist?” Palin asked the crowd.

There was a temporary pause when a protester began shouting at Palin as she spoke of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Before the protester was escorted out by security, Palin showed the crowd she was unphased.

“Bless your heart sir, my son is over in Iraq fighting for your right to protest,” she said to the resounding applause and approval of the crowd.

Palin also reminded the crowd of her reliance on them to be successful at the polls in Florida.

“It’s going to be a hard-fought battle here in Florida, it is going to come right down to the wire, but with your help we’re going to win in Florida,” Palin said.

Punta Gorda resident Paul Biernat said Palin has re-energized the McCain ticket and the Republican party in general.

“We needed a boost in the party to get conservative folks excited about the election,” Biernat said. “I was always going to vote for McCain, but my enthusiasm was ratched up when he picked her to be his running mate.”

Helen Peters of Fort Myers said she is excited about Palin but does not want to see Obama as president.

“If he’s in I’m leaving the country,” Peters said.

Biernat said he is leery of the influence Obama would have on the Supreme Court should he win the election.

“We can probably put up with Barack Obama for a few years, but if he puts two judges on the bench we’ll be dealing with him for the next 30 years,” Biernat said.

Palin, who gave a similar speech Monday morning in Clearwater before jetting to Naples for fund-raisers ahead of the Estero event, will continue her swing through Florida today with stops in Jacksonville and Pensacola.