GOP Ticket In Hershey, Pa.

In the past four presidential elections, Pennsylvania has gone Democratic. The Republican ticket campaigned in the swing state Tuesday. John McCain and Sarah Palin were in Hershey, hoping voters will give the GOP ticket a sweet victory next week.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Senator McCain and his running mate Sarah Palin went trick or treating for votes yesterday in the candy capital: Hershey, Pennsylvania. They hope to pull off a big trick next week by winning the state, even though Pennsylvania has gone Democratic in the last four presidential elections. Here's NPR's Scott Horsley.

SCOTT HORSLEY: When she's not going to political rallies, Barb Day(ph) has the kind of job a lot of people would envy.

Ms. BARB DAY(ph) (Taste Tester, The Hershey Company): I'm actually a taste tester for Hershey. It's a good job, all Hershey products. They don't go out in the market until we taste them and evaluate them. And that's what we do.

HORSLEY: At the moment, it's not Day's sweet tooth that's getting a workout, but her political pallet. She and other Pennsylvania voters have been getting to sample the presidential candidates. And the Hershey resident has made her selection.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. DAY: Oh, I think McCain would taste better because he's for every American. He has experience which Obama doesn't. I think he's better for our country.

HORSLEY: Polls suggest that Day is in the minority in Pennsylvania where Barack Obama enjoys a comfortable double-digit lead. But Republican former Governor Tom Ridge insists outside of the big cities, his state is a lot closer than those polls would indicate.

Mr. TOM RIDGE (Former Governor of Pennsylvania): You got the values voters in the Northeast and the Southwest. These are men and women and families that are in a lot of small towns, church-goers. You got a lot of veterans in Pennsylvania. They do better and certainly break generally towards John's way. I've traveled enough around the state for the past three months to dispute what the polls say.

HORSLEY: With that in mind, McCain has been devoting a lot of time and resources to Pennsylvania in hopes of scoring an upset. He and running mate Sarah Palin have been barnstorming throughout the state. Yesterday, they teamed up for a joint rally in the hometown of the world's biggest chocolate factory.

(Soundbite of Republican campaign rally, Hershey, Pennsylvania)

Governor SARAH PALIN (Republican, Alaska; Vice Presidential Candidate): So Hershey, it is going to come down to the wire here on November 4. And it's going to come down to what we believe in. And our opponents put their faith in government. John and I, we put our faith in all of you.

(Soundbite of crowd ovation)

HORSLEY: As he has for the last two weeks, McCain challenged Obama's plan to raise taxes on the richest Americans in order to spread the wealth around. Obama has promised his tax hikes would only affect families and small businesses making more than a quarter million dollars a year. McCain says that would effectively punish people for being successful.

(Soundbite of Republican campaign rally, Hershey, Pennsylvania)

Senator JOHN MCCAIN (Republican, Arizona; Republican Presidential Candidate): You see, Senator Obama believes in redistributing wealth, not in policies that grow our economy and create jobs.

HORSLEY: McCain's own plan to grow the economy consists of extending President Bush's tax cuts, making deeper cuts in capital gains taxes, and freezing large chunks of the federal budget. He and Palin also talked up their plans to boost domestic energy supplies. They want to expand offshore oil drilling, build dozens of new nuclear plants, and spend $2 billion a year on cleaner-burning coal. That last idea is especially popular in Pennsylvania, one of the nation's biggest coal-producing states.

Senator MCCAIN: The United States of America, including the state of Pennsylvania, sits on the world's largest coal reserves. We'll use coal and clean coal technology to get us out of this ditch.

(Soundbite of crowd ovation)

HORSLEY: McCain smiled when the crowd responded by chanting, we've got coal.

Senator MCCAIN: You've got coal. That's right. And you've got independence, and you've got judgment. And that's why we're going to win this election on November 4.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

HORSLEY: Former Governor Ridge argues that McCain's deficit in Pennsylvania is only four or five percentage points. To overcome that gap, McCain is counting on Pennsylvania politics being like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get until the votes are counted. Scott Horsley, NPR News, traveling with the McCain campaign.

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