McCain: 'We will clean up Wall Street'
[ALEX LEARY | Times]
JACKSONVILLE -– Sen. John McCain insisted Monday that the "fundamentals of the economy are strong," but expressed grave concern about the collapse of Lehman Brothers and pledged to bring accountability to Wall Street.
Appearing before 3,000 in this staunchly conservative city, McCain seemed to be trying to strike a balance with offering reassurance while also stressing he would directly confront the conditions that have led to such instability. "I promise you we will never put America in this position again. We will clean up Wall Street," he said at Veterans Memorial Arena.
McCain's speech kicked off a two-day swing through Florida, where polls show him opening up a lead over Democratic rival Barack Obama. It was his first solo rally since picking Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. He headed to Orlando on Monday afternoon and is expected in Tampa today.
The absence of Palin may have tempered turnout in Jacksonville, but the 3,000 who showed up were a raucous bunch, and McCain said he needs every bit of their energy to take the state.
People waved signs that read “Country first” and “drill, baby, drill,” and cheerleaders with pompoms led the crowd in chanting “U.S.A.” He entered the arena shortly after 9 a.m. to Eye of the Tiger, from one of the Rocky movies.
Kelly Stephens, a 45-year-old nurse, said Palin has brought renewed enthusiasm for McCain, who has not always dazzled conservatives. "She was something the campaign needed, a spark, a new hope for American values," she said.
McCain got a warmup from Crist and former Gov. Jeb Bush, who got a rousing reception from the staunchly conservative crowd.
"This is a perilous world," Bush said. "Much better to have someone who sits in the Oval Office that understands how the world is and doesn't coddle dictators and doesn't want to openly discuss anything, any time with our enemies."
Read more in Tuesday editions of the St. Petersburg Times or right now on tampabay.com.