McCain Campaigns In Phoenix High School

Republican John McCain urged students at a Phoenix high school to vote. He also received the endorsement of Puerto Rican reggaeton singer Daddy Yankee, who called the Republican presidential candidate a "fighter for the immigration issue."

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

As for John McCain, gone are the days when a presidential candidate took the week off during the other party's convention. Senator McCain spent some of the weekend dealing with his gaffe regarding how many houses he owns. And today, he was on the trail speaking to what could be a pivotal group of voters: young Hispanics.

NPR's Ted Robbins has our story.

TED ROBBINS: Over the weekend, John McCain was still dealing with the bruise he got last week when he couldn't remember how many homes he and his wife own. Saturday, he told CBS' Katie Couric that he is proud to own any home.

Senator JOHN McCAIN (Republican, Arizona; Presidential Candidate): I spent some years without a kitchen table, without a chair. And I know what it's like to be blessed by the opportunities of this great nation.

ROBBINS: He was, of course, referring to his years as a POW in Hanoi. While he was imprisoned, his future wife, Cindy, was a student at Central High School in Phoenix. And that's where McCain appeared today. It was build as a news conference. Instead, McCain made a few remarks to a roomful of students and urged them to vote.

Sen. McCAIN: So, I hope you'll be involved, but most importantly, I know why you are sitting here, and that is not to listen to me so much, but I brought a special friend along with me today.

ROBBINS: That special friend got a far bigger reaction than John McCain.

Sen. McCAIN: His - one of his most famous songs - I know you're very familiar with "Gasolina."

(Soundbite of crowd)

Sen. McCAIN: Well, it means - here he is, Daddy Yankee.

(Soundbite of cheering)

ROBBINS: Daddy Yankee is a Latin music star from Puerto Rico, born Ramon Ayala. He sings reggaeton - a blend of hip-hop and Caribbean styles. His biggest hit is the song McCain referred to "La Gasolina."

(Soundbite of song "La Gasolina")

Mr. RAMON AYALA (Daddy Yankee): (Singing) (Speaking foreign language)

ROBBINS: Those lyrics in part, she likes gasoline. Give me more gasoline. How she loves gasoline. Give me more gasoline. According to a number of online discussions, the lyrics are Puerto Rican slang, which can be interpreted as speed, racing, alcohol and sex, or all of the above.

Dressed in black and bling, Daddy Yankee talked about another issue in his endorsement.

Mr. AYALA: He's been a fighter for the Hispanic community. And I know that me personally, I chose him as the best candidate because he's been a fighter for the immigration issue.

ROBBINS: Of course, that issue cuts two ways. For years, McCain worked with Democrats to find a compromise that would allow illegal immigrants to legally remain in the country. He was opposed by members of his own party and dropped that position in favor of enforcement first. Arizona Republican leaders who are anti-immigration still chastise McCain for his earlier position.

None of which matter to Central High School student Eduardo Gutierrez(ph), he'll be 18 and eligible to vote in a month.

Mr. EDUARDO GUTIERREZ (Student, Central High School): Let's say not a lot of people listen to the politics, but then (unintelligible) Daddy Yankee, so then that's like a big influence on them to vote, too.

ROBBINS: In his brief remarks, Daddy Yankee noted that he is a man not of word but of action. John McCain no doubt hopes Daddy Yankee's words will move young Hispanic voters to action, too.

Ted Robbins, NPR News, Tucson.

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