GOP presidential candidate McCain visits suburbs

February 1, 2008 9:08:35 PM PST
Republican presidential candidate John McCain was campaigning Friday night in the west suburbs.With the Super Tuesday primaries just four days away, McCain is hoping to build on momentum from his primary victory in Florida

It was one of the many made-for-television political events that the McCain campaign will hold between now and Super Tuesday. The Arizona senator addressed several hundred people, most of them hardcore McCain supporters jammed into the small space in Villa Park in Republican-vote rich DuPage County. They believe the senator is the party's best hope to maintain control of the White House.

"I think that he really is the most effective candidate that's going to bring the country together. I think he's palatable on both sides," said Bob Holstein.

"I like what he is doing for us. It's the first time I wanted to stand behind a candidate," said Bonnie Ryan.

"I'm here to see what he has to offer the Republican Party, to see if he is going to reach out to the conservative base that so far he's neglected," said Paul Doetsch.

McCain campaigned earlier Friday in Missouri. The recent victories in South Carolina and Florida reportedly have led to a fund raising bonanza of millions of dollars in new donations befitting his new frontrunner status.

There are still questions about whether McCain is conservative enough to be the party's standard bearer in November. Former Illinois governor Jim Thompson, a former Rudy Giuliani supporter, said supporters should not put much stock in labels.

"I think John McCain sort of represents the views of the nation in many respects. And I think you have to do that. Even a Democratic candidate, once he or she is selected, will start to move toward the center," said Thompson.

After this rally, McCain planned to meet with campaign donors. Then he would go to the big Lincoln Day dinner held by the Republican Party in Oakbrook Terrace.

It was arguably the most important pre-Republican primary event in Illinois. McCain accepted the invitation late Thrusday to replace Giuliani as the featured speaker:

"We are going to have a clean, clear and respectful debate between myself and Senator Clinton or Sen. Obama. And it is going to be whether we ought to have increases or decreases in government spending, higher taxes or lower taxes," McCain said.

Many GOP bigwigs who supported Giuliani until Wednesday, when the former New York City mayor dropped out of the race, were all in for McCain Friday night:

"Governor Thompson, Edgar, myself and others are firmly behind John McCain," said Joe Birkett, DuPage County state's attorney.

In Villa Park, McCain vowed to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, praising the president for his national security effort and vowing to continue the wars in Iraq and against terrorism until a clear U.S. victory:

"If I have to follow him to the gates of hell, I will get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice," said McCain.

Mitt Romney will hold an event at the College of DuPage Sunday.