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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

It's Morning Edition from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne. Today and tomorrow, we examine what it's like inside these large rallies that Barack Obama and John McCain are holding. Every day, we hear soundbites from the events. But who's giving up the time to wait in lines to get into these rallies? And what awaits them when they get there? NPR's David Greene spent a weekend in North Carolina and let both candidates come to him. Tomorrow, we'll hear about an Obama event. This morning, David tells us about a McCain crowd.

DAVID GREENE: John McCain's crowds these days include people like Ron Grant.

Mr. RON GRANT (Republican Supporter): I got up early, went and got bagels and coffee, and met everybody over at our house, and got ready to come out here and see Senator McCain.

GREENE: He's a 30-year-old Republican who says he's here to take a stand.

Mr. GRANT: Honestly, I came out this morning because I wanted to take the opportunity to see Senator McCain and because I refuse to believe that North Carolina is a battleground state. This is a red state. This has been a red state for years. And this is going to be a red state for McCain in this election.

GREENE: Lately, McCain has been forced to defend red states. Yes, some of his supporters are worried, but they say coming out to see McCain might give them reassurance.

Unidentified Woman: Good morning, would you like to get your rally button?

GREENE: McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin, isn't here in person. She is on a lot of the campaign buttons.

Unidentified Woman: We got really cute ones. We got "Don't Let The Lipstick Fool You," "Pit Bulls For McCain And Palin," "You Go Girl."

(Soundbite of music)

GREENE: Inside the arena, it's bluegrass music.

Representative ROBIN HAYES (Republican, North Carolina): Please face the flag.

GREENE: And the pledge.

Representative HAYES: I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States...

GREENE: Republican Congressman Robin Hayes is getting things started with a sense of mission.

Representative HAYES: God has blessed America. But he is asking us to respond to him.

GREENE: Local Republican Congressman Patrick McHenry is also part of the warm-up act.

Representative PATRICK MCHENRY (Republican, North Carolina): Let me tell you why you, McCain-Palin supporters, have to vote early, because we're going to go vote early once...

GREENE: Then he gets to his punch line.

Representative MCHENRY: Ladies and gentlemen, we're going to go vote once, but ACORN and these liberal groups out there are going to try to vote 70 times.

GREENE: The crowd's eating it up.

(Soundbite of crowd laughing and whistling)

GREENE: You got quite a whistle.

Mr. CARL PERAINO (Republican Supporter): Thanks.

GREENE: The mighty whistler is Carl Perino. He wasn't always a McCain guy.

Mr. PERAINO: I think if Hillary would have been here, I might have gone the other way.

GREENE: Carl is 51. He sells paint to automobile plants. Hillary Clinton, he says, impressed him with her experience. Obama hasn't. So he's decided on McCain. He drove here for a look at the guy who will be getting his vote.

Mr. PERAINO: I feel more secure after I listen to him in the up and front and in person.

(Soundbite of crowd chanting "John McCain")

Senator JOHN MCCAIN (Republican, Arizona; Republican Presidential Candidate): Thank you. Thank you.

GREENE: McCain is talking every day about the Ohio plumber who famously complained about Obama's tax plan. Volunteers have given out homemade-looking signs to fit the day's message.

Ms. TAMERA FRANK (Republican Supporter): It says "Fight for Joe the Plumber," and we are Joe the Plumber.

GREENE; Tamera Frank drove in the night before and got a hotel room so she could make it to hear McCain.

Ms. FRANK: I don't listen very much to the polls because you come out here and you hear the voice of the real American people.

GREENE: Her mom, Irma Silvers, came along. Irma says she doesn't believe any news report that has McCain's campaign struggling.

Ms. IRMA SILVERS (Republican Supporter): Look at the turnout here. Do you think this is not a representation of North Carolina?

GREENE: Within a half-hour, the stage, the risers, the large American flag are coming down. One of the stragglers is an Air Force veteran named Charlie Suther. He's one of the McCain supporters who has grown frustrated with the news media.

Mr. CHARLIE SUTHER (Air Force Veteran): You're a journalist, right? You're the Fourth Estate. And that's the other thing that makes me so angry in this country.

GREENE: What makes him angry is that, in his view, reporters play up McCain's attacks on Obama, but downplay attacks in the other direction.

Mr. SUTHER: Now, I know there is stretching on both sides. I know the truth is somewhere in the middle. But you, as a member of the Fourth Estate, have to make sure that people can decide.

GREENE: One member of the Fourth Estate is finishing up his TV report.

Unidentified Reporter: John McCain spent much of the beginning of the speech referencing Joe the Plumber.

GREENE: Then the arena empties. John McCain, for his part, left a while ago for Virginia, another red state where the polls are close. David Greene, NPR News, Raleigh, North Carolina.

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