Oil Drilling A Potent Rallying Cry For McCain

Sen. John McCain on Monday got an approving roar from the thousands gathered at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota. McCain was seeking blue-collar and heartland support by visiting the giant motorcycle rally.

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SCOTT HORSLEY: And I'm Scott Horsley with the McCain campaign in South Dakota.

(Soundbite of motorcycle engine)

HORSLEY: The ground shook, and the air filled with the sound and smell of revving engines when John McCain dropped by the Sturgis motorcycle rally last night. The annual event draws hundreds of thousands of people to the plains in western South Dakota every summer, but attendance this year is a little down. Even on a motorcycle, $4 gasoline can be a hardship. McCain says he'll change that.

Senator JOHN McCAIN (Republican, Arizona; Presidential Candidate): We're not going to pay $4 a gallon for gas because we're going to drill offshore and we're going to drill here and we're going to drill now.

HORSLEY: That's become a potent rallying cry for McCain, whether he's talking to two-wheel enthusiasts in South Dakota or sedan-driving suburbanites in Florida.

Sen. McCAIN: My opponent doesn't want to drill. He doesn't want nuclear power. He wants you to inflate your tires.

HORSLEY: McCain and the Republican Party have been handing out tire pressure gauges to poke fun at Barack Obama's suggestion that properly inflated tires and tune-ups could save more oil than offshore drilling would produce. Efficiency experts, the Energy Department, even NASCAR have endorsed the fuel-saving benefits of proper tire pressure, but McCain is betting Obama's idea will meet the same political resistance as Jimmy Carter's famous cardigan sweater.

On a conference call organized by McCain's campaign, Virginia Congressman Eric Cantor took issue with another Carter-era program that Obama's been promoting: attacks on oil companies' soaring profits.

Representative ERIC CANTOR (Republican, Virginia): Windfall profits tax, as we all know, was tried back at the end of the Carter administration and it was an utter failure, resulting in less domestic production and limiting supply.

HORSLEY: McCain says the nation needs to boost production of traditional fuels like oil and natural gas, even as it explores alternatives such a wind and solar power. Today, he'll showcase his support for expanding nuclear power with a visit to the Fermi nuclear plant in the swing state of Michigan.

Scott Horsley, NPR News, Rapid City, South Dakota.

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