Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin drew a crowd of 25,000 people on Monday at the Richmond International Racetrack, where she attacked Sen. Barack Obama's approach to the economy and presented Republicans as the more patriotic of the two parties.
"[Sen. John McCain] is the only one talking about the wars America is fighting," she said, "and he isn't afraid to use the word 'victory.'"
After talking about McCain's military service and reminding the crowd that she was a mother of a son serving in Iraq, she asked people who served in the military to raise their hands so the crowd could honor them. The audience chanted, "USA! USA!"
"Virginia, there is only one man in this race who has ever really fought for you," Palin said, "only one man with the courage to keep on fighting for you."
Under a hot sun, Palin spoke for about 30 minutes to a crowd composed mostly of families. Fathers held children on their shoulders so they could see Palin on stage past the sea of red shirts. Her speech was interrupted several times by members of the audience shouting her name and chanting, "Drill, baby, drill!"
"We believe in the forward movement of freedom, not the constant expansion of government," Palin said.
Separating her platform from that of other candidates, Palin promised to be an advocate for parents who had children with special needs. "They are not a problem," she said. "They are a priority. There are the world's standards of perfection, and there are God's."
She said that as governor she had ensured more funds were made available for students with special needs. As a mother who had a child with Down syndrome, she said she understood parents' struggle. "Every child has something to contribute in this world," she said.
Palin attacked Obama's plan to help the struggling economy, saying he would raise taxes, even on families who made $42,000 a year. She said McCain's economic recovery plan would keep taxes low, help students pay college tuition and make health care affordable for all Americans.
"We're going to get this economy back on the right track," she said. "Barack Obama voted 94 times for increasing taxes. Taxes are already too high, and he wants to raise them."
Palin said she lowered taxes while she was mayor and governor. She encouraged investment in green technologies -- which she said could create 70,000 new jobs -- and that she and McCain would encourage the expansion of nuclear power and the development of clean coal.
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"There is more coal here than oil in Saudi Arabia," Palin said before launching an attack against Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden, whom she said had claimed last week that there was no such thing as clean coal.
Palin said McCain would help small businesses, give parents more choices to help educate their children, and balance the federal budget by the end of his term. "We cannot afford another big spender in the White House," she said, equating Obama with President George W. Bush.
In the middle of her speech, Palin mistook a group of her supporters for Obama fans, telling them she hoped they would thank their veterans for giving them the ability to protest. The group had been shouting "Louder! Louder! Louder!" because they were having trouble hearing her in the back of the audience.
Palin's speech was preceded by the Pledge of Allegiance and prayer. Country music singer Hank Williams Jr. sang the National Anthem, which he dedicated to people who had family members serving in the military.
Williams also sang "Family Tradition," changing the famous lyrics to words that paid tribute to McCain and Palin, and attacked Obama and the "liberal media."
McCain campaigned with Palin in Virginia Beach earlier today. He and Obama are battling over Virginia's 13 electoral votes.
With three weeks left until the election, most polls show Obama leads McCain in Virginia. The last Democratic presidential candidate to win Virginia was Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.
Jerry Kilgore, the former attorney general of Virginia, told the crowd at RIR that the "liberal elite" were trying to delude the American people into thinking the presidential race was over. "If we took the poll today," he said, "it's McCain in a landslide.
"Victory starts right here in Virginia," he said. "Let's keep Virginia red."
Contact staff writer Kimberly Leonard at firstname.lastname@example.org
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