McCain, Palin Campaign In Virginia

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The Republican ticket took its act to northern Virginia Wednesday. The candidates didn't vary much from their regular stump speech, but the new theme — Obama's use of the term "lipstick on a pig," which the GOP says is sexist — was in evidence during much of the event.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Today, John McCain and Sarah Palin were also in Virginia. And while they stuck to their standard stump speeches, some people on stage hammered on the campaign's new theme that Barack Obama is allegedly sexist.

NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson reports.

MARA LIASSON: More than 10,000 people lined up for hours to see the Republican ticket in Fairfax, one of northern Virginia's new Democratic enclaves. Most of them were like Virginia Raoul(ph), who like members of the other big crowds McCain has been getting this week admitted the real draw was Sarah Palin.

Ms. VIRGINIA RAOUL: But to tell you the truth, I probably - he would've been okay to see on TV. But the fact that he has Sarah with him now, that's really why I came out, just standing here for about an hour and a half. I was frankly surprised how wonderful she was, her speech at the convention. I just really got excited.

So what's different from me now is, now, I will actually volunteer. Now, I will actively go out and help find more people to come to the McCain-Palin ticket. I probably wouldn't have done that before.

LIASSON: Raoul is a Republican, but the McCain campaign is also hoping Palin will be able to draw some of Hillary Clinton's supporters. And today, one of the warm-up speakers was Lynette Long, a Democrat and a Clinton voter who savaged Obama for what she described as sexist remarks about Sarah Palin.

Ms. LYNETTE LONG (Blogger): My party stood silently by as the mainstream media eviscerated Senator Clinton with sexist comments. And yesterday I understand Senator Obama personally said you can put lipstick on a pig, and it's still a pig.

(Soundbite of disapproval)

Ms. LONG: Well, Mr. Obama, Mr. Obama, calling girls names is something you do in fifth grade. And I don't want a fifth grader running my country.

(Soundbite of cheering)

LIASSON: The McCain campaign is also running a Web ad with Obama's comments, slamming it as an insult to Palin, who famously quipped in her convention speech that the only difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull was lipstick. But when Obama used that expression yesterday, he was talking about McCain's policies and never mentioned Palin. And McCain himself has used the phrase when referring to Clinton's health care plan.

McCain and Palin themselves, however, never used the lipstick-on-a-pig attack in their remarks. Instead, Palin focused on her record and how she rejected earmarks, otherwise known as pork barrel spending.

Governor SARAH PALIN (Republican, Alaska; Vice Presidential Candidate): We reformed the abuses of earmarks in our state. And it was while our opponent was requesting a billion dollars in earmarks as a senatorial privilege, what I was doing was vetoing half a billion as an executive responsibility.

(Soundbite of cheering)

LIASSON: In her very first news interview tomorrow with ABC, Palin may have to answer questions that have been raised about her record on earmarks, in particular the Bridge to Nowhere. But for now, John McCain has been happily touting her record as a reformer and a Republican giant-killer.

Senator JOHN McCAIN (Republican, Arizona; Presidential Candidate): Senator Obama has never taken on his party on a single issue. We've taken on the old bulls. She ran against an incumbent Republican governor - and by the way, beat him like a drum. But the point is…

(Soundbite of cheering)

Sen. McCAIN: …we'll take them on.

LIASSON: That incumbent Republican governor was Frank Murkowski, who also served in the Senate with John McCain. It's unusual for a sitting U.S. senator to attack a former colleague of his own party so gleefully in a political campaign. But this campaign is turning out to be very unusual.

Mara Liasson, NPR News, Washington.

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