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McCain rally packs Bear Down


Eric M. Jukelevics
Arizona Daily Wildcat

(Above) Sen. John McCain speaks with supporters last night at Bear Down Gymnasium. (Right) ASUA President Cisco Aguilar presents McCain with a University of Arizona sweatshirt at the rally last night. The Republican presidential candidate's rally at the UA drew about 5,000 people. Arizona and Michigan hold their primary elections today.

By Ryan Gabrielson
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
February 22, 2000
Talk about this story

Outside, what's left of the UA Mall was cloudy and wet. Inside Bear Down Gymnasium, however, there was heat - in the form of flashing lights and the making of a hyped political rock show.

Its star was Arizona Sen. John McCain.

The Straight Talk Express had come back to Arizona one day before the state's primary.

Music by Blink 182 and The Offspring pulsed out into the crowd what university police said was 5,000 supporters, including the overflow who had to remain outside.

"You're going to be on national television," said one McCain supporter presiding over the rally's opening, as the crowd waved their signs and chanted "we want John; we want John," amid flashing red, blue and green lights.

Some of the state's most prominent Republicans were the night's opening act.

"I want to elect the person who can beat Al Gore like a drum," said Arizona Secretary of State Betsy Bayless.

University of Arizona President Peter Likins fulfilled his duties as host on stage.

Cisco Aguilar - Associated Students of the University of Arizona president -gave McCain a red UA sweatshirt, which he promptly put on and wore for the duration of his time in Bear Down.

Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Arizona, also spoke in support of McCain.

Arizona Gov. Jane Hull, who has endorsed Texas Gov. George W. Bush, was not in attendance.

Crowd surfing supporters passed out campaign materials to tightly-packed students and other attendees tucked around the makeshift stage.

All the rally lacked was a mosh pit.

At 10:05 p.m. McCain arrived at Bear Down, more than an hour late. At 10:11 p.m. he began speaking and was done nine minutes later.

"We're going to win you a White House you can look up to," McCain said.

He then championed his victory over other competitors -Dan Quayle, Elizabeth Dole, and Gary Bauer - who had fought for the Republican nomination.

"Now we're down to two and we've got him (George W. Bush) on the ropes," he said, neglecting to mention that Alan Keyes has yet to leave the race.

McCain attacked Bush's campaign tactics, giving a mock "thank you" for money Bush has given the Arizona economy through television advertisements.

McCain also criticized the content of Bush's advertisements for their negativity. Ads aired in Arizona and South Carolina attacked McCain, he said.

In South Carolina, McCain began running the same negative type of commercials but quickly backed away from the tactic and apologized for his actions "because I want to be president of the United States in the best way, not the worst way," McCain said.

McCain said people had told him that Arizona was too small a state to support a presidential candidate and added that would soon change.

"Soon a mother in Arizona is going to be able to tell their children that they can be president," he said.

At the end of his brief speech, McCain made a well-publicized pledge to voters.

"I promise you I will always tell you the truth, no matter what," he said.

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