Angry anti-Obama taunts grip McCain, Palin events
LA CROSSE, Wis. (AP) — Some of the anger is getting raw at Republican rallies and John McCain is mostly letting it flare. A sense of grievance spilling into rage has gripped some GOP events as McCain supporters see his presidential campaign lag against Barack Obama. They're making it personal, against the Democrat. Shouts of "traitor," "terrorist," "treason," "liar," and even "off with his head" have rung from the crowd at McCain and Sarah Palin rallies, and gone unchallenged by them.
Presidential candidates are accustomed to raucous rallies this close to Election Day and welcome the enthusiasm. But they are also traditionally monitors of sorts from the stage. Part of their job is to leaven proceedings if tempers run ragged and to rein in an out-of-bounds comment from the crowd.
Not so much this week, at GOP rallies in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida and other states.
When a visibly angry McCain supporter in Waukesha, Wis., on Thursday told the candidate "I'm really mad" because of "socialists taking over the country," McCain stoked the sentiment. "I think I got the message," he said. "The gentleman is right." He went on to talk about Democrats in control of Congress.
The anti-Obama taunts and jeers are noticeably louder when McCain appears with Palin, a big draw for GOP social conservatives. She accused Obama this week of "palling around with terrorists" because of his past, loose association with a 1960s radical. If less directly, McCain, too, has sought to exploit Obama's Chicago neighborhood ties to William Ayers, while trying simultaneously to steer voters' attention to his plans for the financial crisis.
The Alaska governor did not campaign with McCain on Friday, and his rally in La Crosse was much more subdued than those earlier in the week when the two campaigned together. Still, one woman shouted "traitor" when McCain told voters Obama would raise their taxes.
Volunteers worked up chants from the crowd of "U.S.A." and "John McCain, John McCain," in an apparent attempt to drown out boos and other displays of negative energy.
Palin, at a fundraiser in Ohio on Friday, told supporters "it's not negative and it's not mean-spirited" to scrutinize Obama's iffy associations.
McCain campaign manager Rick Davis said Friday the outbursts weren't a "big deal," but acknowledged considerable frustration among some of the candidate's supporters.
"Political rallies have always attracted people who are emotionally connected to the outcome of the election," Davis said, adding, "I'm confident it has nothing to do with what our candidates are doing or saying right now."
Obama disputed that assessment at a campaign rally in Chillicothe, Ohio, on Friday. "It's easy to rile up a crowd by stoking anger and division," Obama said. "In the last couple of days, we've seen a barrage of nasty insinuations and attacks."